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Supermoon, Perseid Meteor Shower light up NJ sky

A celestial doubleheader will fill the night sky over New Jersey this weekend but the light from one event may partially upstage the other.

Two Perseid meteors, centre and lower left, streak across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower above a forest on the outskirts of Madrid,
Two Perseid meteors, centre and lower left, streak across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower above a forest on the outskirts of Madrid. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

Considered the best display of the year, the annual Perseid meteor shower will be at their brightest Sunday morning in the pre-dawn hours with as many as 50-75 meteors-an-hour  streaking across the sky according to the U.S. Naval Observatory.

However, the effects of the Supermoon, or perigee moon, Sunday’will cause the moon to appear 30 percent brighter than usual, creating too much light to see many of the meteors. The Perseids are also brighter than normal with occasional fireballs so “it’s not a complete washout,” Ben Burress, an astronomer with the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, California tells USA Today.  “But it won’t be nearly as good as it would if the moon wasn’t up.”

Burress says to see the Perseids, look in the northeastern portion of the sky in the constellation Perseus, which is just to the left of the Pleiades.

The “Supermoon” happens when the moon is full on the same day as its perigee, the time at which the moon is closes to the earth, CNN. reports. According to EarthSky.org, the August full moon will be the closest and largest of the year.

A few suggestions from NASA on watching the Perseids:

  • Find an area well away from city or street lights.
  • Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair.
  • Lie flat on your back with your feet facing northeast and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible
  • After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors.
  • Be patient — the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.

A less-early option for viewing the Perseids is to look in the sky at dusk when the moon is low in the east. Alan MacRobert of Sky & Telescope magazine says you may catch some “longer and graceful” meteors but not nearly as many as in the early morning hours.

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