Perseids 2018: How to watch – Will California fire smoke block meteor shower in USA? | Science | News

The largest Californian wildfire in the history of the US rages on as the annual Perseid shower approaches its peak.

The Perseids will peak in intensity this weekend in the late night to pre-dawn hours between Saturday, August 11, to Monday, August 13.

Astronomers expect anywhere between 50 and 60 meteors to burst out into the night skies during this year’s peak.

However, the thick and billowing smoke rising from California could make viewing condition troublesome for some US-based stargazers.

The Perseids are best seen in clear and cloudless skies with little to no moonlight drowning out the spectacle.

This year the New Moon phase promises to keep the skies moonless but the threat of wildfire smoke throws a spanner into the works.

Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist, warned viewing conditions in the wildfire-affected parts of California look to be poor.

He said: “Although clouds will be largely absent across the western United States, smoke from wildfires burning across the region will create hazy condition, limiting visibility near and downwind of the fires.

“Similar sky condition are on tap for much of North America on Sunday night as clouds and rain continue to plague the southern and eastern US and wildfire smoke lingers over the Western US.”

Since a number of wildfires broke out across California over the course of July, hundreds of thousands of acres of land have been consumed.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) revealed the most devastating of the fires, dubbed Carr Fire, has covered 176,069 acres as of Wednesday, August 8.

The nearby Ranch Fire in Mendocino County has burned around 253,166 acres and River Fire has consumed 48,920 acres of land.

Surface smoke forecast data collected by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows thick surface smoke concentrations in Northern California from Thursday through to Friday morning.

One hour average vertical smoke integration maps show similar results between Thursday and Friday.

The dark red hotspots in the map show great amounts of smoke in California, Utah and even further up north in Canada.

The NOOA atmospheric forecast is updated every 48 hours with the latest data every 48 hours. You can find the live maps here.

Be sure to check your local weather forecast at least two days in advance of the Perseid meteor shower peak.

But if you are far away from the dangerous California fires then you are in for a truly mesmerising spectacle this weekend.

AccuWeather astronomer Dave Samuhel recommended finding a quiet dark spot with unobstructed views of the starry sky.

He said: “My best advice if you’re trying to see meteors is to lay back and get as much of the sky in your view as possible.

“As with any meteor shower, you need patience. Plan on making an evening out of it and stay out for at least one hour.”

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