Sky watchers preparing for one of the year's brightest meteor showers may have to dial down their expectations this year, as a bright "supermoon" will arrive just in time to possibly spoil the party, experts say.
The annual Perseid meteor shower is set to peak Aug. 12 to 14, but the "supermoon" -- the name given to an approach of the moon around 30,000 miles closer than its average distance -- will arrive on Aug. 10, unfortunate timing that may hamper people's ability to see the meteors, they say.
Such supermoons occur between four and six times a year, with this being the brightest one this year.
While the Perseid shower routinely produces up to 100 meteors an hour -- its annual appearance has given August the reputation as a "meteor month" -- they will have to try to shine though the light of the full moon.
Still, that shouldn't deter anyone from engaging in some sky watching from Aug. 10 up until Aug. 13, experts say, although they may have to be prepared for a somewhat muted display this year.
"The best time to see the showers will be at around 2 a.m. in the morning," says astronomer Tony Berendsen, founder of Tahoe Star Tours. "Because the moon will be incredibly bright in the earlier evening, the smaller showers will not be a match."
The Perseids take their name from the constellation Perseus, from which they will seem to originate.
The shower is created by the Earth moving through a trail of space debris left behind by a comet known as Swift-Tuttle on its voyage through the solar system between the orbits of the Earth and Jupiter.
One of the brightest and most reliable of the many meteor displays, the Perseids were mentioned as early as A.D. 36 by Chinese astronomers, but it was not until the 1830s that astronomers realized it was the same shower returning annual in August like clockwork until the 1830s.
Because of the orbital path of the Swift-Tuttle comet, the best viewing of the Perseid shower occurs in the Northern Hemisphere.
This year, because of the super moon, the best chance to catch sight of some Perseid meteors may be during the predawn hours away from city lights on days when the moon sets long enough before sunrise to provide a dark observing window of a couple of hours, experts say.