December’s Geminids are known for being the strongest meteor shower of the year, typically generating 75 visible meteors per hour in a rural and moonless sky. But the best meteor shower to watch each year in the Northern Hemisphere? That title goes to the Perseids, because they peak on warm summer nights each August and deliver roughly 50 visible meteors per hour under the same conditions.
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.
Here’s how to catch the show in August 2023.
When does the Perseid meteor shower peak in 2023?
The Perseid meteor shower will peak the night of Saturday, August 12, through the predawn hours of Sunday, August 13, when Earth makes its way through the densest cloud of debris from the comet.
Fortunately, in 2023, the moon will only be 10 percent full on the peak night of the Perseids, so dark skies will be easier to find, especially in rural areas with little to no light pollution from humans.
Earth started passing through the Comet Swift-Tuttle’s dust cloud on July 14 and will continue to do so until September 1, so you can try viewing the meteors the nights before and after the peak night as well.
Where to watch the Perseid meteor shower?
You can see the Perseids from anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere where the skies are clear the night of August 12. 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 and to a more remote location.
The weather in Joshua Tree National Park, which is known for its stargazing, is typically clear in August. According to Accuweather, stargazing conditions for the park should be ideal, with only 15–24 percent cloud cover expected.
Northwestern Nevada’s Massacre Rim International Dark Sky Sanctuary, one of the nine Certified IDA International Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the United States, is also a safe bet for good weather. Like Joshua Tree, clear skies in Massacre Rim are also expected for the night of August 12.
While not as remote as dark sky sanctuaries, there are also many more Dark Sky Parks in the United States, which are publicly or privately owned spaces that implement good outdoor lighting. One of our favorites is Headlands International Dark Sky Park at the tip of Michigan’s mitten. Encompassing 600 acres of old-growth forest on the shores of Lake Michigan, the park is free to visit every day of the year. Unfortunately, rain is expected in the area over the weekend and stargazing conditions at the park are estimated to be poor for Saturday night. However, an expected 53 percent cloud cover Sunday morning means conditions may improve throughout the night. Ideal conditions are expected Thursday, August 17—while that’s past the meteor shower’s peak, it will still be happening at that time.
You’ll find many popular national and state parks on the full list of Dark Sky Parks. The scattered thunderstorms that are fairly typical in August throughout the eastern part of the United States usually make it harder to see the meteor shower the farther east you go.
Do you need any special gear to watch the Perseids?
You won’t need a telescope, since the Perseids are bright enough to see with the naked eye. However, NASA recommends giving yourself about 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, so you’ll want to stay warm and have something comfortable to sit on while you acclimate.
A reclining camp chair can help prevent a sore neck the next day, a packable puffy blanket will keep things cozy, and a headlamp with a red-light setting helps illuminate the path to your stargazing spot without introducing unwanted light to the area. Here are some of our favorite gear picks for each of those scenarios:
- Buy now: Nemo Stargaze Reclining Camp Chair, $300, rei.com
- Buy now: Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket, $110, rumpl.com
- Buy now: Black Diamond Spot 400 Headlamp, $50, rei.com
When is the next major meteor shower in 2023 after the Perseids?
If you’re unable to take in the Perseids in August, the next major meteor shower—the Orionids—peaks the evening of October 20, through the predawn hours of October 21, according to the American Meteor Society. The moon will be 37 percent full that night, making it a little harder to see the 10 to 20 meteors per hour this shower produces. The entire Orionid meteor shower is active between September 26 and November 22, 2023.
This article was originally published in 2020; it was updated most recently on August 11, 2023, with current information.