The “old reliable” Perseid meteor shower will be peaking in the early morning hours on Thursday August 13. The best time to observe is late Wednesday evening to about 4 am the following morning. The Perseids as a rule are numerous (relatively speaking), bright, and fast.
If you are new to observing meteors or want to how to maximize your experience there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Dress warmly. Bring extra blankets. In the early morning hours your body’s temperature actually drops. If your location is inclined to dew also being a space blanket or plastic trash bags.
- A lounge chair where you can lean back and look up is critical. A pillow provides an extra degree of comfort.
- Bring your favorite warm beverage.
- Don’t forget the mosquito repellent.
- There is no need for telescopes or binoculars. Observing meteors is an eye ball activity.
- You need to wait 20 minutes in the dark to get your eyes night adapted.
- Plan on observing at least one hour.
- If you need a light use a red light. White light from a regular flashlight will destroy your night vision.
- The Perseids radiate from the north east, but it best to be looking overhead with your feet pointed in an easterly direction.
- Pay attention the weather forecast. Cloudy weather does happen and as all astronomers know there is nothing you can do about it except catch up on some sleep.
- You really need dark skies to observe meteors. Find a location as far way for city lights as reasonably possible. Even ten miles away will be a big improvement. If you observe from the typical urban backyard expect to see one or two meteors and hour if you are lucky.
What to expect:
Observing meteors is a lot like watching baseball, not a lot is happening most of the time and when the action happens it’s over quickly. A “good” meteor shower will have 80 to 100 meteors an hour, averaging a little more than one a minute. A better description would be to call it a trickle rather than a shower. Meteors come in bursts. You can see several meteors within a minute and not see any again for several minutes. There is a good chance you will miss a few because you were not looking in the right place at the right time.
The best time to observe meteors is after midnight on a dark moonless night, from a dark location. To observe meteors does take some preparation, effort and patience. That being said, it is the rare bright ones (a home run) that make the effort worthwhile.
While the Perseids peak on the morning of August 13 they are still easily visible for a week or so.
Wishing you clear skies