How to Watch the Perseid Meteor Shower When the Moon Isn’t in the Way

Thursday night through Friday morning is one of the special dates scattered throughout each year when skygazers can witness a meteor shower when a multitude of flares potentially explode in the dark.

Meteor showers occur when our planet is caught in the debris field left by icy comets or rocky asteroids orbiting the sun. These small particles burn up in the atmosphere, resulting in blazing trails of light. The regularity of orbital mechanics means that each meteor shower occurs around the same time each year.

The latest shower is the Perseids. They have been active since July 14th and continue through September 1st, but they will peak around August 11th-12th, or Thursday night until early Friday morning.

Warm summer nights and lots of fireballs make the Perseids one of the most popular showers of the year. Starting with comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which returns frequently through the inner solar system, the Perseids often put on a great show.

But this year the moon will be full on the main night of the shower and rise most of the night, severely reducing visibility. If you get to a dark sky and wait until the early hours of the morning, you may still be able to see between 15 and 20 meteors per hour.

And there will be more meteor showers. Visit The Times’ list of major rain showers expected in 2022, or sync our curated collection of major space and astronomy events to your personal digital calendar.

The best course of action is to go to the countryside and get as far away from artificial light sources as possible. People in rural areas can have the luxury of just going outside. But city dwellers also have options.

Many cities have an astronomical society that maintains a dedicated dark sky section. “I would suggest contacting them and finding out where they are located,” said Robert Lunsford, the secretary-general of the International Meteor Organization.

Meteor showers are usually best seen when the sky is darkest, after midnight but before sunrise. To see as many meteors as possible, wait 30 to 45 minutes after arriving at your observing location. This allows your eyes to get used to the darkness. Then sit back and enjoy a wide view of the night sky. Clear nights, higher elevations, and times when the moon is faint or absent are best. Mr Lunsford suggested a good rule of thumb: “The more stars you can see, the more meteors you can see.”

Binoculars or telescopes are not necessary for meteor showers and will even limit your view.

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