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2016 Perseids

The most popular meteor shower of the year.

Main Activity Dates July 17 to August 24
Peak Rates Aug 12d 13h-14h UT (and 00-04h UT?)
Peak ZHR 80
Best Observed Rates Late in the night of Aug 11-12
Visibility each night (UK) Visible all night
Moonlight issues at Maximum Pre-midnight interference from Gibbous Moon






The Perseids remain a favourite with most observers.

Although they are out-performed by December's Geminids in terms of observed meteor rates, the Perseids have the advantage of occurring at a time of year when the nights are not too cool and at a time when many people take their summer breaks.

Perseid activity can be seen during the final fortnight of July and the first three weeks of August, but the best rates occur for a few days around Aug 12th.  The "traditional" Perseid maximum in 2016 is predicted for Aug 12d13h UT and the best observed rates from this are likely to be seen late in the night of Aug 11-12.  Good rates are also likely during the nights of Aug 10-11 and 12-13, so don't just focus on the night of Aug 11-12 (and risk it being clouded out).

There is a good chance of higher than usual Perseid activity in 2016, due to a 12 year periodicity in Perseid rates caused by perturbation of the meteor stream by Jupiter. This has previously enhanced Perseid rates in 1968, 1980, 1992 and 2004. Good news for observers in the UK is that predictions indicate that the enhancements will occur during UK hours of darkness.

Mikhail Maslov and Esko Lyytinen predict that in 2016 we will cross a part of the stream which was shifted closer to the Earth’s orbit by Jupiter. As a consequence, the background ZHR may reach a level of 150–160.  At 22h34m UT on Aug 11, the Earth should encounter small meteoroids of the 1-revolution trail and this may lead to an increase in the ZHR by about 10.  At 23m23m UT, brighter meteors of the 4-revolution trail are expected.
Calculations by J´er´emie Vaubaillon, indicate that the densest part of the stream dominated by meteoroids of the 2-revolution trail will be crossed on Aug 12 between 00h to 04h UT (λ⊙ = 139.49–139.66), well before the broad nodal maximum.
Nothing is guaranteed however, but it will obviously make sense to be aware of these predictions.
On Aug 11-12, a 60% illuminated Gibbous Moon will cause some interference before midnight. However, being located in northern Scorpius, this will; be rather low in the sky from the latitude of the UK and hence its impact will be limited. You can minimise its effect by keeping it outside of your field of view - possibly observe with your back to the Moon.
Some early Perseid activity can also be seen in late July and the first week of August alongside the Delta Aquarid-S and Alpha Capricornid activity. At these times the Moon will be largely out of the way - New Moon occurs on Aug 2.

The Perseid radiant is circumpolar from the UK, so you should start to see some Perseids as soon as it gets dark. The best observed rates are likely to occur in late in the night when the radiant is higher in the sky.

Few Perseids will be seen if you look directly at the shower radiant (their paths will be too short to easily see against the star background). For the best observed rates, look at an area of sky around 30-40 degrees from the radiant and at an altitude of around 50 degrees (but obviously tailor this to take into account local factors such as sky obstructions and light pollution ... and of course the Moon)

Being rich in bright meteors makes the Perseid shower a good target for imaging.

Here are very useful guides to

imaging using a DSLR http://popastro.com/meteor/observingmeteors/DSLR/index.php

and imaging using a video camera http://popastro.com/meteor/observingmeteors/video/index.php

The shower is also good for trained meteors, with around a third leaving persistent trains.

Care should be taken to identify the correct location for the Perseid radiant (see the chart below) before observing, as this changes significantly between late July and the Aug 11-12 peak.