Skywatchers Are In For A Treat This Month With Venus And The Perseids

Amateur astronomers and skywatchers are in for a treat in August with two major celestial events happening at nearly the same time. Those who look to the skies during the predawn hours this month will be able to see the Perseid meteor shower reach its annual peak on the mornings of August 11, 12th, and 13th. At the same time, the brightest planet in the sky will be Venus as it swings to its greatest elongation or greatest apparent distance from the sun.

The best viewing of Venus will be in the eastern sky before sunup on August 12 or 13th. What this means is skywatchers will be able to view both the annual Perseid meteor shower and witness Venus at its brightest at the same time.

It will be nearly a decade before the two celestial events reach their peak at the same time in August 2028. The only downside is that the Perseid peak will be somewhat obscured by moonlight as the moon will reach its last quarter phase on August 11. During that moon phase, the moon rises at midnight right when the Perseids kick in.

For those new to sky watching, the Perseids peak in mid-August and are considered the best meteor shower of the year with very fast and bright meteors. The meteors typically leave long "wakes" of light and colors behind them as they pass through the atmosphere.

As many as 50 to 100 meteors can be seen per hour, and since they happen in the warm summer months they are easy to view. Perseids are also known for creating fireballs, which are larger explosions of light and color that persist longer than the average meteor streak. The space debris that create the annual meteor shower originates from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which takes 133 years to orbit the sun and last entered our solar system in 1992.