Sky watchers will be treated to a dual show this weekend, though the two spectacular events will be in competition.
It will be an epic battle as the Perseid meteor shower—the biggest, brightest and most fireball-infused of the year—dukes it out with 2014’s most massive supermoon.
“During the second week of August, the biggest and brightest full Moon of the year will face off against everyone's favorite meteor shower—and the outcome could be beautiful,” NASA said in a statement.
The Perseid meteors can rain a good 100 or more meteors per hour into our field of vision, appearing to emanate from the constellation Perseus. They are debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, and they slam into Earth’s atmosphere at 140,000 mph, known for their fireballs.
“The radiant sits low in the northeast sky at evening and climbs upward throughout the night,” Earthsky.org says. “The higher that the radiant is in your sky, the more Perseid meteors that you’re likely to see.”
But there’s a catch: The most brilliant moon of 2014, the middle of three successive supermoons this summer, will be arriving almost simultaneously.
“On August 10, 2014, just as the Perseids are set to peak, the Moon will become full,” said NASA. “Moreover, it will become full just as it reaches the place in its orbit (perigee) that is closest to Earth. The perigee full Moon of August 10th—also known as a supermoon—will be as much as 14 percent closer and 30 percent brighter than other full moons of the year.”
The moon will be a mere 221,675 miles away, according to Earthsky.org. At is farthest it is 252,088 miles away, Space.com says, with an average distance of about 238,855 miles. Exact full moon will occur on August 10 at 2:09 p.m. EDT, 1:09 p.m. CDT, 12:09 p.m. MDT and 11:09 a.m. PDT, according to Earthsky.org, making the nights of the 10th and 11th the brightest showing. Moonrise is at 7:35 p.m. on the east coast.
Good news for the moon and for romantics, and bad news for those who want to wish upon a star. Or is it?
"The Perseids are rich in fireballs as bright as Jupiter or Venus,” said Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office in a statement. “These will be visible in spite of the glare."
“A warm summer night, a moonlit landscape, and an occasional fireball cutting past a supermoon: that's an ensemble with a special beauty all its own,” NASA noted.