If the clouds part for long enough on Saturday evening, tilt your head to the stars for showers of a different kind.
The Perseid meteor shower will peak Friday and Saturday, according to space.com, bringing countless streaks of light to the Lowcountry skies, assuming the weather cooperates, of course. The shower will also be visible, though less spectacular, on Sunday, after the peak has passed.
The Perseid shower happens every year as the earth approaches the orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle and passes through a debris field left behind by it, space.com reports. That debris, much of it no larger than a grain of sand, hits the earth’s atmosphere at 133,200 mph.
At that speed, you could traverse the distance from Hilton Head Island to Los Angeles in less than a minute!
Roughly 40 to 50 meteors per hour will be visible, reports space.com, which is less than the 90 per hour visible on very dark nights. The reason for this is that a nearly full moon will outshine several meteors as they blaze across the sky. When the shower reaches its actual peak, around 1 p.m. on Saturday, the sun will provide a good deal more brightness to contend with.
“You want to go out in the early morning hours, so before sunrise on Aug. 12,” said Steven Rodney, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of South Carolina. “That would be in the 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. range, and if you look to the north or northeast where the constellation Perseus is, you’ll have the moon on your back as it is beginning to set which will give you a little bit of a darker sky. You’ll see something on the order of tens or dozens of meteors each hour, but not the hundred or more in an hour that you might get in a better year.”
Next year’s Perseids will happen during a new moon, which will provide for a darker sky and much better viewing, but if patience isn’t your strong suit, another shower is just around the corner, according to space.com. The Kappa Cygnid meteor shower will be visible from Aug. 19 to 22 and will happen during a new moon, making meteors much easier to spot.