You should actually be able to see the Perseid meteor shower from Toronto this week
Want to wish upon a shooting star? 2021 may be your last chance in years to do so during the spectacular celestial event known as The Perseid Meteor Shower.
Widely considered the best meteor shower of the year, the Perseids peak annually in mid-August, but aren't always super visible, especially in cities like Toronto where bright lights abound and obscure the night sky.
Some years are better than others, however, and 2021 is shaping up to be what NASA calls "one of our most impressive skywatching opportunities for a while."
Set to reach their peak on Aug. 11, 12 and 13, this year's Perseids will be more visible than usual in the Northern Hemisphere thanks to a slim crescent moon and high levels of meteoric activity.
From the right viewing spot and at the right time of night (or rather, early morning), scientists say you can see more than 60 shooting stars per hour.
"With a full moon (and lower meteor activity) during the Perseids' peak in 2022 and a waning crescent high in the sky for 2023, this might be your best chance to do some summer skywatching for a few years," notes NASA of this week's big stargazing event.
"Find somewhere comfortable, avoiding bright lights as much as possible (yes, including your phone), and give your eyes some time to adjust to the dark — up to half an hour if you can."
Experts recommend that you watch the show from a reclined position, such as lying on a sleeping bag looking up at the sky. The wider your view, the more fireballs you'll tend to catch.
"Watch from midnight to dawn," suggest the pros at EarthSky.org. "That's when the part of Earth you're standing on will be heading into the meteor stream in space. So you'll see more meteors. By dawn, they'll be raining down from overhead."
Will you be able to see some streaks from the roof of your condo building in downtown Toronto? Likely, at least this year — but you'll get a much better show if you head slightly out of town to an area where the skies are darker.
There's a bus heading up from Toronto to the Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve near Muskoka on Thursday, Aug. 12, if you're interested. It'll be a long night, with a departure time of 7 p.m. and a return to the city around 3:30 a.m., but for $65 it'll be the most spectacular show you'll see all year.
You can also search around for the darkest spot within your range of travelling comfort right here using this dark site finder map.
The David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill — home to Canada's largest optical telescope — is hosting a virtual Perseids viewing event this year, organized by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The program will be conducted through Zoom.
NASA will also carry a livestream, as usual, for everyone to view the shower of comet fragments from the comforts of home. You'll be able to find it between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. ET on Aug. 11 and 12 via the space administration's Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.
"With very fast and bright meteors, Perseids frequently leave long 'wakes' of light and color behind them as they streak through Earth's atmosphere," notes NASA. "Perseids are also known for their fireballs. Fireballs are larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak."
We can thank the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years, for this annual celestial celebriation.
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