The Perseids Meteor Shower is peaking this week, and anyone who loves a dazzling show should get themselves outside and looking up. Between 160 and 200 meteors will light up the night sky in the predawn hours of August 11, 12 and 13, 2016. But the best time to head out (and when a meteor outburst is predicted to have the brightest effect) is the evening of August 11 into the morning of August 12 (yep, all night!). Earthsky.org suggests the ideal time to watch is between midnight and dawn, but that there will be enough to see before then as well—as long as you spend enough time looking up.
Where to Watch
Fog permitting, there are two spots in San Francisco that have the highest visibility in the city, picked off our list of San Francisco spots for stargazing and where the SF Amateur Astronomers host their star parties:
For better views, of course, you’ll probably want to get out of the city where there’s less light pollution. Here are a few Bay Area spots that should give a clear view.
Here are a few tips for catching bright trails across the sky from Bruce McClure, an expert at Earthsky.org (and not getting disappointed!):
- Give yourself at least an hour of observing time, for these meteors in meteor showers come in spurts and are interspersed with lulls. Remember, your eyes can take as long as 20 minutes to adapt to the darkness of night. So don’t rush the process.
- Know that the meteors all come from a single point in the sky. If you trace the paths of the Perseid meteors backwards, you’d find they all come from a point in front of the constellation Perseus. Don’t worry about which stars are Perseus. Just enjoying knowing and observing that they all come from one place on the sky’s dome.
- Enjoy the comfort of a reclining lawn chair. Bring along some other things you might enjoy also, like a thermos filled with a hot drink. (And our tip to add to that for the SF Bay Area specifically: also bring jackets and a blanket!)
And perhaps our favorite:
- Remember…all good things come to those who wait. Meteors are part of nature. There’s no way to predict exactly how many you’ll see on any given night. Find a good spot, watch, wait.
But if you can, you should get outside to see this one. As Dr. Jackie Faherty, an astronomer from the American Museum of Natural History told the New York Times about this meteor shower, “When you get a good one, it will rival the stars in the sky.”
(Note to SF Bay Area photographers: If you are headed out there and take any long exposures, we’d love to see and possibly feature them! Please send images to email@example.com.)
[Featured Image: mLu.fotos via Flickr]