A Red, Crescent Moon Joins this Year's Perseides Meteor Shower
Monday, August 2, 2021 - 3:12 PM3 minutes read
The best meteor shower of the year will have a red crescent Moon if you're in the right spot
Each August, Earth passes through the trail of dust left over from the comet Swift-Tuttle. When it does this, little bits of rock and dust from that comet pass through our planet's atmosphere creating streaks of light.
Those are meteors. Those streaks of light that briefly pass through the night sky. That big, bright WHOOSH that Homer sees looking up at the sky after his mother leaves him at the end of Season 7, Episode 8.
When and Where to See It
The meteor shower builds up starting in late July and peaks on August 12 and 13.
You can see the meteor shower basically anywhere. But ideally, you want to be in a dark sky area outside of the light-polluting city.
Can't do that? You can still see the meteor shower! In fact, I'll be doing an event for it on August 12 and August 13. I'll be doing it in a spot that is above the city streetlights and blocks the bright downtown glow.
The less light in the sky, the easier it will be to see the meteors when they flash by. And some years are better than others to see the Perseides because of the phase of the Moon: if the Moon happens to be full in mid-August, that bright moonlight will wash out those meteor flashes.
This year, we're lucky. In fact, I think we're doubly lucky...
The Red, Crescent Moon
The Moon will be visible on August 12 and 13, but not for the entire night. Just after the Sun sets, the Crescent Moon will appear in the Western sky.
On August 12th, the Moon will set in the West as the Perseides start getting underway, at ~10:20 PM.
On August 13th, the Moon will set a bit later, at ~10:45 PM.
So, cool! We get a Crescent Moon this year on the Perseides! And it doesn't block our view of the meteors. But because the Moon will be low on the horizon, it'll appear red.
Whenever the Moon is low on the horizon, it appears red. This is because when the Moon is low, the light from it has to go through more atmosphere to reach your eyes. When light goes through more air, colours at the end of spectrum (blue, green, yellow) get scattered and all we see are the oranges and red light.
We also see this when the Full Moon first appears during a Moonrise. In this case, the Moon is "setting".
Have a Clear View
Ideally, you'll be outside of the city to primarily see the meteor shower. But if possible, try to also get a clear view of the Western sky. Basically: if you have an open view of the Sunset, you'll a clear view to see the Moonset.
No equipment is needed to see the red Moon – you won't miss it. But to see the meteors, it'll be best to put away your phone and have your eyes adjust to the darkness. In a dark sky, you should see about 50 meteors per hour.
In Montréal last year, at the spot I'll be doing the workshop, we saw about 15 meteors per hour. If you don't have a car or the time to head outta the city, it's a great show.