Hey everyone, it's time for the annual Perseid meteor shower! And, as it's San Francisco in August, that also means it's time for everyone to get disappointed that their view of the Perseid meteor shower is obstructed by clouds. However, there are a few ways for fog-bound San Franciscans to see the hours-long light show, and as KQED News reports not all of them involve getting out of the city.
First, lets start with the basics. What is this thing, anyway? The good folks at NASA have put together a helpful explainer which drops the following bits of knowledge. The light streaks you'll see in the sky are "tiny specks of comet-stuff hitting Earth's atmosphere at very high speed and disintegrating in flashes of light." The comet in question is 109P/Swift-Tuttle (impress your friends with that), and thanks to Jupiter's gravity moving some of the comet debris around, this year's show is going to be more spectacular than usual. "Even though the moon phase is not the best for viewing, the 2016 shower will be an outburst, with rates double the normal levels," NASA explains.
That translates to up to 200 meteors per hour tonight and Friday night.
"Every Perseid meteor is a tiny piece of the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun every 133 years," NASA further explains. "Each swing through the inner solar system can leave trillions of small particles in its wake. When Earth crosses paths with Swift-Tuttle’s debris, specks of comet-stuff hit Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrate in flashes of light. These meteors are called Perseids because they seem to fly out of the constellation Perseus."
So there you have it.
Prime time to see the meteor show is around 1:10 a.m., but you should be able to spot something starting around 11:00 p.m. If you're sticking in San Francisco (where it is expected to be cloudy), KQED News says that as long as you get in a "moon shadow" and look to the north-east you'll be good. "Have the moon be blocked by a tree or a chubby neighbor,” Foothill College's astronomy professor Andrew Fraknoi told the publication.
If you want to be sure to see some meteors, however, your best bet will be to head out of SF. Thankfully, there are plenty of great viewing spots. Get yourself to Lawrence Berkeley Lab or Vollmer Peak located in Tilden Park. Or, if you're lazy, there's a much easier option: NASA will livestream the media shower (the stream starts at 7:00 p.m. PST and is embedded below) so you don't even have to leave your bed.
Previously: Where To Watch The Perseid Meteor Shower Tonight