"This is bad news for the Perseids," Bill Cooke, astronomer at NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, recently said of the supermoon's presence. "Lunar glare wipes out the black-velvety backdrop required to see faint meteors, and sharply reduces counts."
That lunar glare will be present again tonight, as the Perseids are expected to peak, delivering as many as 100 meteors per hour. Astronomers say skywatchers who want to see shooting stars should go to bed early and set their alarms for the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
Cooke says the best time to see the meteor shower is several hours after moonrise and just before the sun begins to show on the horizon -- between 3 and 4 a.m. Cooke will be taking questions about the meteor shower via a live web stream tonight on NASA's website.
The Perseid meteor shower features the space dust leftover from the trail -- or tail -- of the Swift-Tuttle comet, which passes by every 133 years. As Earth orbits the sun, its atmosphere bumps into this flying space debris. The so-called shooting stars are bits of the comet's dusty tail burning in the Earth's upper atmosphere.