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A full moon during a meteor shower

Posted on July 23, 2022 by In Media

They come back to us faithfully, year after year. For many people, they are synonymous with holidays and beautiful summer nights. But who… or what is it? Perseid meteor showers, of course!

Due to the full moon, whose bright light generates a kind of “natural” light pollution, the year 2022 will not be a good year for the Perseids. (Picture Unsplash)

Every year, around mid-August, the Earth passes very close to the orbit of periodic comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, whose wake is strewn with billions of dust particles that give us the famous Perseid meteor shower. . From year to year, however, the quality of the show varies considerably, not only depending on how far Earth passes from the densest parts of the particle swarm, but also on the presence or absence of the Moon in the sky.


The Perseids will unfortunately take place under unfavorable conditions in 2022. The maximum activity of this meteor shower is expected around 9 p.m. (Eastern Time) on August 12. However, the Moon will be full on August 11 and will thus become the limiting factor for the observation of shooting stars. The nights closest to the maximum, that of August 12 to 13 and also that of August 11
at 12, where the Perseids are in principle the most abundant, will be affected by the imposing stray light produced by our satellite.

Indeed, an overly bright Moon generates a sort of “natural” light pollution which is impossible to escape, even in the countryside. This veil of light masks the weaker meteors; only occasional very bright meteors manage to pierce it. Under these conditions, the number of meteors that it is possible to observe decreases enormously. Moreover, during the days around the full moon, the Moon is present in the sky from dusk until dawn, giving us almost no window of respite.

During the two nights closest to the maximum, one should expect to count at most three or four meteors per hour, and only on the condition of benefiting from a very transparent sky and a point of view entirely unobstructed 360 degrees. Advice for diehards who are determined to try to see a few meteors: keep the Moon behind you, hidden by trees, a building or a relief, and focus your attention on the northern part of the sky.

Remember, however, that the Perseids are active (but at a much lower intensity) from the end of July to the third week of August. Although the number of potentially observable shooting stars halves for each 24-hour period that separates us from the peak of activity, you will certainly have the opportunity to see some during the moonless nights of early August, provided you get away from the light pollution of cities. Moreover, until August 5, the Moon sets before midnight, thus leaving the field totally free to
meteors during the second half of the night and until dawn. During the same night, the more the hour advances, the more the radiant of the Perseids rises in the sky, which increases the number of meteors. Don’t forget your wish list!

In 2023, the Perseids will benefit from much better conditions, since the Moon will be at its last crescent.

Source: This scientific content of the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium comes with authorization from the Space for Life website.

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