The Perseids occur every August, but thanks to a new moon happening within a day of the peak of this year’s meteor shower, you’re going to want to make special plans this weekend to see it.
“This year the moon will be near new moon, it will be a crescent, which means it will set before the Perseid show gets underway after midnight,” Bill Cooke, a NASA meteor expert, told Space.com. “That’ll make the Perseids probably the best shower of 2018 for people who want to go out and view it.”
Each year, the Perseids appear to radiate out from the constellation Perseus, which is how the shower gets its name. But the bright streaks of light we see on Earth are actually coming from the trail of debris the Comet Swift-Tuttle leaves behind as we cross through its path. When the comet’s debris—or meteoroids—enter Earth’s atmosphere, they heat up, leaving a bright streak of light across the sky.
When can you see the Perseid Meteor Shower?
Earth has actually been passing through the dust cloud the Comet Swift-Tuttle leaves in its path since July 17 and will continue to do so until August 24. However, the peak of the meteor shower will start on the night of Sunday, August 12, and last until the predawn hours of Monday, August 13, when Earth makes its way through the densest cloud of debris from the comet.
If you can’t be out late on Sunday, you’ll also be able to see the early side of the show on the night of Saturday, August 11, too.
NASA recommends giving yourself about 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, so bring something comfortable to sit on while you acclimate. This year, you can expect to see between 60 and 70 meteors an hour during the peak nights, so you’re basically guaranteed to see a few shooting stars if the sky is clear where you are.
Where can you see the Perseid Meteor Shower?
Unlike July’s lunar eclipse, you can actually see the Perseids from anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere where the skies are clear this weekend. For the best views, you’ll want to be somewhere with little to no light pollution, so you’ll need to get out of the city.
So far, it looks like the weather in Joshua Tree National Park, which is known for its stargazing, will be clear this weekend. The sky should also be clear on Sunday night within the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, the first Dark Sky Reserve in the United States, located outside of Sun Valley in the Sawtooth National Forest.
We are especially proud today to announce the designation of the first International Dark Sky Reserve in the United States! The new Reserve encompasses some 3,668 square kilometers (1,416 square miles) of remote and largely rugged lands in the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho, U.S., whose night skies are nearly pristine. Learn more about the new reserve on darksky.org/centralidaho, or visit the Reserve’s website on idahodarksky.org. (Photo by Wally Pacholka / AstroPics.com) #DarkSkies #VisitIdaho
Unfortunately, scattered thunderstorms throughout the eastern part of the United States could make it harder to see the meteor shower from the other side of the country.
If you’re abroad, you can find a dark sky place near you by searching the International Dark-Sky Association’s website for locations around the world.
When is the next major meteor shower in 2018?
If you’re unable to take in the Perseids in August, the next major meteor shower—the Geminids—will peak starting mid-evening on Thursday, December 13, and last until until dawn on Friday, December 14, according to EarthSky.org.