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Moon, Meteors, and More

August 11, 2016

Tonight should be a busy night for special skywatching events. The evening hours offer a beautiful conjunction between the Moon and three other bright objects. And after that group drops from sight, in the wee hours of the morning, there’s what’s expected to be a pretty good showing for a meteor shower.

As the evening twilight fades away, look for the Moon standing at the top right of a diamond of bright objects. The brightest one after the Moon is the orange planet Mars, which is directly below the Moon. The planet Saturn is a little closer to the lower left of the Moon, with the star Antares below Saturn.

The Moon and its companions set by around 1 or 2 a.m. By then, the Perseid meteor shower should be starting to heat up. As seen from the United States, in fact, it should be at its best in the hours before dawn.

The shower occurs when Earth passes through the trail of debris that was shed by a comet. The grains of comet dust plunge into the atmosphere at high speed. They quickly vaporize, forming the streaks of light known as meteors.

Some experts say that Earth should pass through a pretty good clump of comet dust this year, so you might see up to dozens of meteors per hour.

To really enjoy the late-night fireworks, you need to get away from city lights. But that’s not the case with the Moon and its companions. Weather permitting, they’ll be in good view from just about anywhere — even through the bright lights of the city.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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