Comet Swift-Tuttle could become the most dangerous threat to humanity.
It makes repeated close approaches to Earth. It is estimated to be three times larger than the comet that killed the dinosaurs. It could collide with Earth in 2,000 years.
But until that day comes, we can still marvel at the debris Swift-Tuttle sheds, forming the Perseid meteor shower.
The annual shower occurs when Earth passes through the path of Comet Swift-Tuttle, usually from July 17 to Aug. 24. This year, the shower will peak between Sunday night and the early hours of Monday morning.
The meteor shower will be more noticeable this year than some other years because it will be close to a new moon, meaning there will be less moonlight, Chris Anderson said. The observatory coordinator at the Herrett Center for Arts and Science said it’s best to wait until 10:30 p.m. to start looking for meteors.
And despite all the fires this week, the sky should be clear from smoke during the meteor shower, Les Colin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said. The sky should be clear this weekend with no clouds.
While not the strongest meteor shower, Perseid is well-known, Anderson said. And it is appealing to watchers because it happens while nights are still warm.
Anderson said some people are disappointed when they expect too much. The Perseid has roughly 60 meteors an hour, so it’s likely there will be a meteor a minute.
“Perseid is a laid-back activity,” Anderson said. “Get yourself a warm beverage, a blanket and a lawn chair and just look up.”
No telescopes are necessary to view a meteor shower, he said. It’s a challenge to predict where a meteor will be in the lens.
Perseid will be in the northeast section of the sky. Putting city lights to the south of you will lead to a clearer view of the meteor shower.
The nearest “dark sky park” to the Magic Valley is Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, granted international status in 2017. A dark sky park is a land with highly visible starry nights, away from light pollution.
Ted Stout, the chief of interpretations and education with Craters of the Moon, said about 100 parks in the U.S. have dark sky park designation. The parking lot by the caves or Inferno Cone could be ideal spots for stargazers.
For the astronomer in search of the darkest of skies to enjoy the meteor shower, there’s the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, a region of 1,416 square miles in the Sawtooth Mountains. The reserve is the 12th dark sky reserve worldwide and the first in the U.S.
Adams Gulch Trailhead and Boundary Creek Campground are part of the reserve.
Idaho Dark Sky was a result of planning efforts by city and county leaders, local businesses and organizations, and public land managers to keep the night sky clean, advisory board member Carol Cole said.
“It’s amazing to be outside at night,” Cole said.