The spectacular meteor shower the Perseids will light up this sky this week. According to astronomers, stargazers can expect to see anywhere from 15 to 20 meteors an hour on a clear night.
The Perseid meteors are small specks of ice and dust that come from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Named after the constellation Perseus, the Perseids appear when the Earth collides with these small particles from the tail of the comet.
What to look for
Local professor and astronomer Joe Childers says people can expect Aug. 11 and Aug. 12 to be the most promising night to see the showers. During this time, meteor shower is expected to peak and stargazers are likely to see the sky light up.
“Any time after midnight – but especially in the hour before dawn twilight begins – settle into a comfortable chair or beanbag and look up,” said Childers. “Every few minutes, you are likely to see a shooting star.”
Can’t make that date? Childers says any clear night a few days before and after is fine.
Know before you glow
When it comes to stargazing, the darker the better. Childers warns the light from the moon this week will wash out the fainter meteors. However, the Perseids are noted for having many bright meteors so it’s well worth the watch, according to Childers.
The moonlight isn’t the only contributor to brightening the night sky. Light pollution is something that affects your ability to see the night sky clearly and has larger implications for the environment.
“Light pollution impacts a number of things,” said MetroParks education coordinator Joshua York. “Animals change their nocturnal habits due to light pollution.”
MetroParks has signed the Lights Out Miami Valley agreement to keep its building lights off at night. We invite your household to join us when possible – even on nights when you aren’t stargazing.
If your children are interested in learning more about light pollution, consider participating in this citizen science project, Globe at Night.
For stargazing purposes, you’ll want to find the darkest spot in your yard. Turn your household lights off and move away from streetlights.
Make it an adventure
An outdoor recreation enthusiast, Childers recommends stargazing as part of a larger adventure.
“Watching meteor showers is a fantastic way to pass the time while night fishing,” he said.
Camping also is a great way to make stargazing an outdoor event for you and your family. Whether you have a favorite camping spot or want to set up in your back yard, MetroParks’ outdoor recreation team has some tips to help you prepare. Watch the video below for Brent and Margaret’s guide to setting up camp.
Five Rivers MetroParks visitors should always follow the CDC’s recommendations, particularly for social distancing and wearing face coverings, while spending time outdoors. For the most current information on MetroParks’ COVID-19 response and related closures, visit metroparks.org/covid-19 and follow Five Rivers MetroParks on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.