The celestial spectacle of the Perseids meteor shower is almost upon us! Whether you’re planning a solo observation or want to make it an outing with friends, this guide has you covered. And if you'd rather have an expert guide, join Astrotours during the peak on Aug 12th, Aug 13th, and Aug 14th (Just Book at AstroTours.org/book). Get a detailed and immersive experience through a telescope, making your night unforgettable.
In a nutshell:
Plan = when?, where?, & how?
#1 - When?
The best time to catch this meteor shower is from August 7th to the 15th, especially between 11 pm and 3 am. The peak is anticipated to be on the night of August 13th, but remember, the Perseids offer a generous window to witness their beauty.
#2 - Where?
You could start in your backyard or, for an enhanced experience, locate the darkest place near you using this light pollution map. Additionally, always check the weather forecast at weather.gov to ensure you have a cloud-free night.
#3 - How?
Maximize your viewing experience by:
Switching off all lights and allowing your eyes to adapt to the darkness for about 20 minutes.
Lying on your back to broaden your field of view. Consider a public park and lay on a picnic blanket in a pitch-dark grassy field.
Essentials for your stargazing night:
A comfortable surface (picnic blanket, trampoline, hammock, sleeping pad, rug, air mattress, etc.)
Your keen eyes
Optional but helpful:
Sky map app on your smartphone
The Perseids are a result of Earth's journey through the debris trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle. The "shooting stars" or meteors we see are essentially the electrification of the atmosphere as this debris burns up upon entering. The peak, while notable, shouldn’t be your sole focus. The broader window from Aug 7th to the 15th provides ample opportunity for a delightful display.
Given the Earth's rotation, the most favorable time to view meteors is later at night or during the early hours, typically around 2 am. This is when you’re facing the direction of Earth’s orbit around the sun. A significant advantage this year is the reduced moonlight due to just 10% illumination, enhancing visibility even in the early evening.
When picking a spot, prioritize darkness and an expansive view of the sky. Localities like Cherry Creek State Park or the Rocky Mountain Arsenal offer impressive darkness while being conveniently close. while mountian passes like loveland pass will be very dark but a bit further away. The ultimate aim? A magnificent view of the night sky, uninterrupted by trees, hills, or light pollution.
For the best chances, recline to get a panoramic view of the heavens. The radiant point for the Perseids is the constellation Perseus, but meteors can appear all over the sky. Ensure to lay in complete darkness for a minimum of 30 minutes to allow your eyes to fully adjust. On a good night, expect to see around 100 meteors every hour!
Bonus sightings to add to your stargazing list:
The Big Dipper in the northwestern sky
A crescent moon visible just before sun rise around the peak dates
Saturn in the eastern sky a few hours after sunset, which will be spectacular in binoculars or a telescope especially since it's at 'opposition' later in August
Jupiter, appearing pre-sunrise and dominating the eastern sky around 1 am. Its bright moons are visible with basic equipment
The Milky Way, a clear band in very dark locations, prominent in the high eastern sky around 11 pm
Various stars and constellations identified using a sky map app. But use sparingly to preserve your night vision.
For a detailed, telescopic experience of all these celestial wonders and more, book a spot with Astrotours during the meteor shower peak. Reserve your spot here.