WEST MICHIGAN — The annual Perseid Meteor Shower is underway as of July 17, but it will reach its peak late Sunday night into Monday morning (August 12th and 13th). Astronomers say up to 60 meteors per hour will be visible during this time.
The Perseid Meteor Shower occurs every summer when the orbit of the comet Swift-Tuttle intersects Earth’s atmosphere. Debris from the tail end of this comet hits our atmosphere at around 132,000 miles per hour and burns up before it makes contact with the surface of the Earth. This creates the meteor shower, or the appearance of “shooting stars.”
The meteors appear to shoot off of the constellation Perseus, which is how they get their name. The Perseids are best seen after 11 PM, away from city lights, and while looking at the northeastern sky.
Viewing here in West Michigan appears to be fair to good as of this writing. There will likely be partial cloud cover Sunday into Monday, as a low pressure system in the upper levels of the atmosphere hangs over the Great Lakes and Ohio River Valley.
This type of low creates a pocket of colder air in the upper levels of the atmosphere, which can lead to some clouds and diurnally driven showers — meaning showers that pop up during the day, and then tend to fade away after sunset.
Despite this upper level low influencing our weather, the surface map will feature high pressure over West Michigan. This high will partially negate the impacts of the upper level low, and act to stabilize the weather around here. So most of the shower activity and thicker cloud cover should stay to our south and east.
The bottom line is we expect partly cloudy skies Sunday night, with rain chances of less than 30%.
If you happen to miss Sunday night’s peak display, the Perseids will still be visible — albeit at post-peak performance with fewer meteors per hour — through August 24th.