Astronomer's Guide to Seeing (Or Not Seeing) the 2011 Perseid Meteor Shower

A full moon will obscure nearly all of the meteors from Perseid, but there are some things local people can do to enjoy the show.

If you want to check out the 2011 Perseid meteor shower tonight, you're in for some bad news.

Because of a full moon, even the best viewing spots in the country for Perseid will yield a pretty lame meteor shower show, according to Monrovia astronomer Morris Jones.

Jones, who co-founded the Old Town Sidewalk Astronomers here in town with his wife Jane Houston Jones, said only about one to two percent of the meteors will be bright enough to see Friday night and Saturday morning.

And even if there weren't a full moon clogging up the sky with light, Los Angeles County is a terrible place to enjoy astronomical events because of the pollution.

"When we want to observe that kind of thing, we head out of the county," Jones said.

Perseid is a meteor shower that happens annually and has been observed for the last 2,000 years, according to the NASA website. It is related to the comet "Swift-Tuttle," which orbits the sun every 133 years, the website says.

"Each year in August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet's debris. These bits of ice and dust--most over 1,000 years old--burn up in the Earth's atmosphere," the website states.

Jones said hope is not completely lost this year for Monrovians who want to see the shower, but they'll have to be content with seeing just a few of the night lights. The best place usually to observe such events is a dark, desert area, he said.

Jones' wife, who works for JPL, travelled to a spot about 200 miles south of the Mojave desert last year to see Perseid, he said. A closer spot that they like to go to for astronomical events is Palm Springs, he said.

For those content with seeing the shower live online, check out NASA's website.


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