Experts: 2016 edition of the Perseid meteor shower Thursday night to be brightest since 2009 outburst

The main problem for Iowa stargazers could be the presence of storm clouds

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Perseid meteor shower is expected to offer a more dazzling-than-usual display Thursday night, but bad weather might dampen Eastern Iowa stargazers’ chances of seeing it.

Even though the meteor shower happens every August, astronomers think Thursday night’s display could be one of the best in years. The sky will be full of more than just stars Thursday night.

Hai Fu, assistant professor in the physics and astronomy department at the University of Iowa, said those who stay out late to watch stargazers’ views will not be blocked by light in the atmosphere.

“It’s going to be a spectacular one, because the moon will set before the prime of the meteor shower,” Fu said.

The U.S. Naval Observatory says astronomers are expecting as many as 150 to 200 meteors an hour this year, rather than the typical 50 to 100 an hour.

Because of the increase in meteors, scientists call this year’s Perseid shower an outburst. According to NASA, there hasn’t been a Perseid outburst since August 2009.

Earth also is passing through a different section of the comet’s tail this year, Fu said. The planet is crossing through the middle of the tail, where more material is located.

Unfortunately, Eastern Iowa viewers might not be able to see any of it. The National Weather Service is forecasting thunderstorms to start rolling into the area after 7 p.m.

But if the skies are clear, Fu suggests a dark spot without any streetlamps nearby for the best possible view.

To see the shower at its peak, viewers will need to stay up past 1 a.m. Friday.

And if the weather refuses to cooperate, NASA will air a live broadcast of the Perseids overnight Thursday and into Friday at ustream.tv. The meteors are pieces of the Swift-Tuttle comet, which orbits the sun every 133 years, according to a NASA news release

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