The sky will be at its peak falling potential on Friday night as the Perseid meteor shower flashes above. The best news? You might not even have to leave New York City to catch a glimpse.
Joe Rao, who is a lecturer at the Natural History Museum's Hayden Planetarium refers to the Perseids as the "Old Faithful" of meteor showers since they are the most reliable showers in the sky. They produce up to 80 meteorites an hour and also are some of the brightest. The annual event is evidence of ancient debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, remnants from the comet's multiple orbits around the sun. The term Perseids derives from the northern sky's Perseus constellation, due to its appearance as point of origin for the meteor shower.
"Even if you're stuck in the city where there is a lot of light pollution, you might catch sight of a fireball, as astronomers call it," Rao says. "Or a Bollide, one that actually pops along its path like a flashbulb, and has the ability of even casting shadows."
Meteorite shadows? Sign me up!
New Yorkers can start viewing the Perseids around 10 P.M. tonight. For best viewing, Rao encourages casting aside the binoculars and telescopes—they only restrict your view of the sky. Instead, he says to head out to the rooftop to get above street lights. Also, he says, "get out one of those long lounge chairs, stretch out on it and look up, perhaps a bit to the Northeast. And pretty soon, you'll see a streak in the sky and another, and then yet another!"
As the evening grows the rate of meteorites will increase and peak just before dawn, between 3 and 4 A.M.