Enjoy a little late-night skywatching? Well then, these are interesting times.
For starters, the annual Perseid Meteor Shower is underway now. According to this article in Space.com, this year's show will be most visible in the predawn hours through Thursday, Aug. 11. Meteor shower activity actually peaks this weekend (Aug. 12-13), but it will be competing with a full moon on those days. The brightness of the moon will considerably reduce the visibility of the meteors. It's still worth a look, however, weather permitting.
During the previous weekend, you may have been one of the skywatchers as far south as Pennsylvania who could glimpse the Northern Lights. These auroras are triggered by an eruption of charged solar particles that get funneled via the Earth's magnetic fields to the polar regions. Per this article in Space.com, there was a big such solar eruption on Aug. 4 that caused this display.
More Northern Lights activity could be on its way soon. Yesterday (Aug. 9), a massive solar flare was spotted that may possibly result in another such display in the next evening or two. Typically, the hours around midnight is prime time for viewing these colorful events.
As with any stargazing outing, your best visibility for both these phenomena will be in dark areas, far away from city lights. Here are some handy meteor-shower viewing tips.
What are your favorite places to watch the heavenly action?
Photo credits: Perseid Meteor Shower 2010, NASA/JPL; aurora borealis in Alaska, NASA/GSFC/James Spann.