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Prepare for the August Perseid Meteor Shower

Are you ready for the Perseids? Perhaps you have already seen some of them. This shower, part of the debris stream of comet Swift-Tuttle, actually starts in mid to late July and extends for most of August. However, while there will only be a few meteors each hour most of those nights (if you are lucky!), the peak time for viewing the shower (August 11-12) will bring many, many more. How much more? The number actually varies every year; there can be as little as couple dozen per hour, or there can be up to one hundred beautiful “shooting stars” per hour.

If you trace the meteor trails of the Perseids back to their source, you will find they seem to come from a spot near the constellation Perseus — hence their name, and the name of most meteor showers.

We have a few tips on how to make the most of your meteor shower viewing experience:

  • Get out of the city! Try to get to the darkest location you can. The darker it is where you are, the more meteors you will see streaking across the sky.
  • Check the weather forecast for that night! You may need to check out two or three areas for predictions on fog, clouds, and temperature. Some weather sites even offer forecasts specially tailored for sky watching. Make sure you have clear skies to go along with those dark ones.
  • If you know of a gathering of folks, or an event hosted by a local astronomy club, go there — especially if it’s your first time!. Find a meteor party by searching the Night Sky Network for clubs near you, or by searching for events near you.
  • You will be outside for a good while, and will want to lie flat on your back to soak up as much of the sky as possible. To stay cozy bring a blanket, a jacket and hat, warm cocoa and water, and friends and family. The more the merrier! If you are in an area with bugs, you may also want to bring some bug spray.

We also have a handout you can use.

For more information on one of our favorite meteor showers, check out NASA’s excellent writeup.

You can also use the handy “Fluximator” meteor shower activity application to try to predict when the peak activity will be for your location.

Have fun — and may you have clear skies!