The Perseid meteor shower is one of the most anticipated celestial events in the Northern Hemisphere. Though the shooting stars are already lighting up the skies in small numbers, the pace will accelerate around mid-August, making them easy to view without a telescope. This year, the best time to see nature’s annual firework display will be on August 12 and 13.
However, experts warn that the show will not be as impressive as 2016 when fans were treated to outbursts of between 150 to 200 bright meteors every hour. Instead, the shooting stars will be streaming through the skies at a more normal, hourly pace of between 80 to 100.
The clear dark sky at Cumberland Gap NHP’s Hensley Settlement is perfect for viewing the Perseid Meteor Shower! (Photo Credit: NPS.gov)
Stargazers will also have to contend with the moon which will be three-quarters full and will rise just before the shower’s peak, at around midnight local time. NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke believes the bright moonlight will the fainter meteors, enabling viewers to see just 40 to 50 meteors every hour. Cooke, therefore, recommends catching the show in pre-dawn hours from a dark area away from city lights.
Perseids, named after the Perseus from which they appear to emanate, are the debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle as it swings by earth every 133 years. Though the comet, the largest solar system body to pass earth repeatedly, will not be coming close to our planet until 2126, it has left behind enough dust from its last visit in 1992. As the Earth orbits around the sun, it encounters the debris at around the same time every August. Though the Perseid meteor shower can be seen worldwide, thanks to the path of Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, it is best visible from the Northern Hemisphere.
Timeanddate.com (Photo Credit: NASA)
In addition to being the most reliable of the 64 meteor showers that are witnessed from Earth each year, the Perseids are also known to send out a large number of fireballs — meteors as bright, or brighter, than Jupiter and Venus.
Named “fireball champions” by NASA scientists, they are believed to be the result of Swift-Tuttle’s large 26km nucleus that sheds hundred of massive meteoroids. When the particles collide with the Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds, they burn and create a flash that we call meteors, or, shooting stars. If you happen upon one, don’t forget to make a wish or two. It is bound to come true!
The best time to spot the display is between 1am and before the onset of dawn twilight.
The darker the location, the better, so those hoping to spot the Perseids should aim for vantage points away from the light pollution of towns and cites.
In Atlanta, Active Junky advises city dwellers in or nearby the bright buildings, traffic and other sources of light pollution, to travel to the following areas:
17515 Highway 177
Fargo, GA 31631
Drive time from metro Atlanta: Four hours and a half hours
This Okefenokee Swamp park was voted one of the best spots in the world for star gazing last year by the International Dark Sky Association for its vast skies and minimal light pollution.
The remote Georgia park is perfect for viewing all things celestial, including the famed Perseid meteor shower in August.
Make your reservations at one of the park’s 64 campsites.
North Georgia mountains
The beautiful mountains in northeast Georgia make for ideal campgrounds during the Perseid shower.
Some popular campgrounds near the mountains can be found at Moccasin Creek State Park and Cooper’s Creek Recreational Area.
3655 Georgia Hwy197
Clarkesville, GA 30523
Drive time from metro Atlanta: Less than two hours
Make reservations at one of Moccasin Creek’s 54 campsites.
6050 Appalachian Hwy
Suches, GA 30572
Drive time from metro Atlanta: Approximately two hours
Campgrounds are first-come, first-serve.
Here are the best star-gazing locations to catch the Perseid meteor shower in or near the nation’s other biggest cities, according to Active Junky:
Indiana Dunes State Park
Silver Springs State Park
Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City, Michigan
Brazo Bend State Park
Sam Houston National Forest
Houston Museum of Natural Science
Los Angeles, California
Angeles National Forest
Santa Monica Mountains
Topanga State Park
Malibu Creek State Park
Everglades National Park
Lorida, Florida (Kissimmee River public area)
New York, New York
Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn
Carl Schurz Park in the Upper East Side
Jamaica Bay on Ruffle Bar Island
Cedar Point County Park on Long Island
North-South Lake Campground
French Creek State Park
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Cherry Spring State Park
Sproul State Forest
Tres Rios Wetlands
Sun Valley Parkway
Dash Point State Park
Salt Water State Park
Kayak Point Park
Mary E. Theler Wetlands Nature Preserve
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Greenbelt National Park
Burke Lake Park
Sky Meadow State Park