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Night brawl: A full moon might outshine the ‘best meteor shower of the year’

The annual Perseid meteor shower will peak this week but the bright full moon might make it harder to see.
2016 Perseid Meteor Fireball Streaks Above black silhouette of Pine Trees
A meteor from the 2016 Perseid meteor shower streaks across the night sky above pine trees in the Cleveland National Forest in Mount Laguna, San Diego County, California.Kevin Key / Slworking / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

The Perseid meteor shower is typically one of the clearest, most visible annual meteor showers of the year but this summer, the spectacular event might have to duel it out with a rare full moon for attention.

According to NASA, the Perseids are expected to peak this Friday and Saturday. At its apex, viewers can hope to see some “50-100 shooting stars per hour.

In a blog post, NASA explained that the Perseid meteor shower peaks in mid-August this year and is “the best meteor shower of the year.”

“With swift and bright meteors, Perseids frequently leave long ‘wakes’ of light and color behind them as they streak through Earth’s atmosphere,” NASA explained in another post about the event. “The Perseids are one of the most plentiful showers with about 50 to 100 meteors seen per hour. They occur with warm summer nighttime weather allowing sky watchers to comfortably view them.”

There’s just one complication, however. Threatening to dim the light of the event is this Thursday’s full moon.

In an interview with Minneapolis NBC affiliate KING, Robert Lunsford from the American Meteor Society, explained that despite the full moon occurring at the same time, the Perseid is expected to be in full swing, and the display will be worth looking out for.

“The show’s gonna be a bit muted, but still, there are enough bright meteors that you can still see enough activity by just facing away from the moon,” Lunsford explained.

Stargazers interested in catching a glimpse of the magnificent show should keep in mind that the shower will be at its most visible when the constellation where the meteors appear to originate from, Perseus, is high up in the night sky as opposed to the horizon. That means early birds will catch the worm!

According to the American Meteor Society, the official maximum of the showers this year is at 01:00 Universal Time (which is 9 p.m. ET and 6 p.m. PT), on the night of Aug. 12. However, because Perseus will be so close to the horizon at the time, the best time to watch will be the dark early morning hours of Aug. 13.

The annual meteor shower is caused by debris left behind from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The comet has an orbit of 133 and last entered the inner solar system in 1992, AMS said.

"Even though the comet now lies in the outer portions of the solar system, far away from Earth, we still encounter debris that has been left behind during the many trips this comet has made through the solar system," the American Meteor Society wrote in a post last week.

However, don't worry if you miss the zenith of the stellar event. You should still be able to see some meteors in the days following — just remember to have patience.

"Know that most meteor showers have bursts of activity, with lulls in between," warns. "That’s why you should plan to watch the shower, from a dark location, for at least an hour or more. Several hours per night for several nights will give you the best chance of seeing the best show."