Look to the stars for one of the best light shows this summer. From July 17-Aug. 24, Earth passes through a trail of space debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle’s 133-year orbit. This trail is the Perseid Meteor Shower, a near-endless stream of astral wreckage — in some spots smaller than a grain of rice — burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. We asked Jay Reynolds, a Cleveland State University research astronomer, for tips on making the most of this interstellar moment.
Wide Open Spaces
Usually, stargazers could see up to 100 meteors per hour during its peak, but this year there’s a full moon in effect. “The dimmer ones are going to be out-blinded by the moon that night,” says Reynolds. Still, you should be able to see one every 10-15 minutes if you shield your eyes from neighboring lights by heading to the Geauga Park District’s Observatory Park or a local ballfield. “You want any place that is wide open without trees,” he says.
The Perseid Meteor Shower is most visible at its peak on the nights of Aug. 12 and 13. Allot your watch party a half-hour after sunset for the sky to darken.But if you’re a night owl, you’ll likely find the most activity after midnight. “In the early morning hours between 2 a.m. and sunrise, the Earth is passing through the debris head-on,” says Reynolds.
If you’ve got binoculars or a small telescope, you might spot Jupiter and some of its moons. “Jupiter will be the brightest thing in the eastern sky,” says Reynolds.