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Aug 10 2014

Super Moon and Meteor Showers

Tonight’s Full Moon is the fourth Super Moon of the 2014 and in case you miss it, you’ll have another chance on September 9. A “super moon” occurs when the moon is new or full “at or near its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.” Tonight’s moon is at its closest for the year, only 221,765 miles from Earth. Because of its close proximity, tides will be higher than usual, which could cause flooding in some low lying coastal areas. The National Weather Service has issues a coastal flood warning for the eastern seaboard extending from parts of New York City down to Delaware

The uniqueness of this Super Moon is that occurs in conjunction with the first night of Perseid Meteor showers:

The Perseids are a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseids are so-called because the point from which they appear to come, called the radiant, lies in the constellation Perseus. The name derives in part from the word Perseides, a term found in Greek mythology referring to the sons of Perseus.

The stream of debris is called the Perseid cloud and stretches along the orbit of the comet Swift-Tuttle. The cloud consists of particles ejected by the comet as it travels on its 133-year orbit. Most of the particles have been part of the cloud for around a thousand years. However, there is also a relatively young filament of dust in the stream that was pulled off the comet in 1865, which can give an early mini-peak the day before the maximum shower. [..]

The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the peak in activity between 9 and 14 August, depending on the particular location of the stream. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. They can be seen all across the sky; but, because of the path of Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, Perseids are primarily visible in the northern hemisphere. As with many meteor showers, the visible rate is greatest in the pre-dawn hours, since the side of the Earth nearest to turning into the sun scoops up more meteors as the Earth moves through space. Most Perseids disappear while at heights above 80 kilometres (50 mi).

This year the showers will peak around dawn on on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. However, they may be hard to see because of the brightness of the super moon

Your best views are between midnight and a few hours before sunrise (around 6:30 a.m.) as Earth rotates into the stream of debris left behind by comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The view improves as the moon sets around 3 a.m. Wednesday morning. The moon will set about an hour later each subsequent day.

Beginning Monday, your best chances are at a more family friendly evening time from shortly after sunset (around 8:45 p.m.) through moonrise about an hour later. The moon also rises about an hour later each subsequent evening, giving more opportunity to see meteors before the nearly full moon washes out the sky. Also take a moment to look low on the southwest horizon for Saturn and just below and to the right for Mars.

Perseid Meteors vs the Supermoon

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