Observers will be disappointed to know that, in 2014, the nearly full moon will adversely affect the Perseids. Indeed, this year, the best known of all the annual meteor showers will reach peak activity just a couple of days after full moon.
Maximum activity of the Perseids is expected around 8 p.m. Eastern Time on August 12, while the full moon occurs at 2:09 p.m. on August 10. Even under perfectly clear and transparent skies, and even without other sources of light pollution, the moon will be the limiting factor. The sky will be flooded with moonlight from the end of twilight until dawn. Only the very brightest meteors (which are few in number) will be able to pierce that luminous veil. Near peak activity, one shouldn’t expect to count more than ten Perseids per hour.
However, an interesting window of opportunity could open at nightfall on August 12, close to the shower’s peak and while the moon is still low in the sky. At that time, the radiant of the Perseids – the area of the sky, in the constellation Perseus, from which the meteors seem to emanate – will be low in the northeast. It might be possible to observe a few bright earth grazing meteors, leaving long glowing trails in the atmosphere above our sector of the world.
Because the Perseids are active from the end of July through the third week of August, it will be possible to observe the shower under dark, moonless skies – but one has to expect much lower numbers of meteors when observing farther from the period of peak activity. Also keep in mind that the Perseids’ activity increases during the second half of the night, as the radiant climbs higher; the Perseids usually reach their full potential just before dawn, unless other factors come into play, such as interference from the moon.
All in all, even if 2014 is not expected to be a grand year for the Perseids, it will still be possible to catch a meteor or two. Just hope for clear weather … and keep your wish list handy!