Tonight may be your last chance to experience the Perseid meteor shower for 2 or more years! This meteor shower has been happening since July, but it peaks in mid-August, and the nights of Wednesday, August 11th and Thursday August 12th are the best for viewing.
When and where can you watch the Perseid Meteor Shower?
Viewers in the Northern Hemisphere will have the best chance at catching it. The peak of the shower will be visible between midnight and 5am on Wednesday, August 11th and Thursday, August 12th, with some good viewing still possible overnight on Thursday, August 12th.
How to prepare to watch a meteor shower:
Make sure you leave enough time for your eyes to adjust to the dark, so you can get the full effect of the meteor shower. NASA recommends "Find somewhere comfortable, avoiding bright lights as much as possible (yes, including your phone), and give your eyes some time to adjust to the dark—up to half an hour if you can." If you have a solar lantern with a red light mode, you can use that without losing your night vision.
To ensure you can fully experience the night sky, you'll need to find a location without light pollution. City lights create significant light pollution that makes it difficult to see the stars. According to the Dark Sky Association, "more than 80 percent of the world’s population lives under light polluted skies. The United States and Europe have it even worse, with 99 percent of their denizens experiencing skyglow at night." So you'll probably need to seek out a spot away from artificial lights sources.
The Dark Sky Association's list of International Dark Sky Parks might be a good place to start, as well as the University of Colorado Boulder's interactive map of artificial lighting.
What are you actually seeing in the night sky?
According to NASA, "The Perseids are fragments of the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits between the Sun and beyond the orbit of Pluto once every 133 years. Every year, the Earth passes near the path of the comet, and the debris left behind by Swift-Tuttle shows up as meteors in our sky."
Sky conditions in 2022 and 2023 may mean that the next time you'll have a chance to experience this incredible lights show will be 2024, according to NASA, so be sure to take your opportunity tonight!
For more information on red light and how it can help you preserve your night vision when stargazing, read our article: Seeing Red