The Perseids — the most popular meteor shower of the year — set to peak Tuesday night |

The Perseids — the most popular meteor shower of the year — set to peak Tuesday night

John Meyer
The Denver Post
The Milky Way was visible, as well as a few shooting stars, during the start of the Perseid meteor shower on Aug. 10, 2018, near Florissant.
Kenzie Bruce / Special to The Denver Post

The most popular meteor shower of the year is due to reach its peak Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, with the best viewing expected to come just before dawn.

The annual Perseid meteor shower runs from July 17 through Aug. 24, when the Earth passes through a dust cloud left by the 109P/Swift-Tuttle comet. That comet has an orbit of 133 years and is currently cruising the outskirts of our solar system, but the long dust cloud it leaves remains behind. When Earth passes through it, debris that enters our atmosphere burns up and creates meteors.

But this may not be the best year for the Perseids because the moon will be half full.

“This meteor shower is perhaps the most popular, as it is active during the summer months in the northern hemisphere,” according to an explanation on the International Meteor Organization’s website. “There are stronger meteor showers, but they appear during the colder time of year in the northern hemisphere when conditions are less inviting. The strength of each Perseid display varies year to year, mainly due to lunar conditions. If a bright moon is above the horizon during the night of maximum activity, then the display will be reduced. Most of the Perseid meteors are faint, and bright moonlight will make it difficult to view. Such is the case in 2020, when a bright half-moon will rise near midnight and temper the show, just when the activity kicks into high gear.”

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