The Perseid meteors are bright, numerous, and dependable.
Rafael Schmall/Universities Space Research Association
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How and When to See the Perseids This August
August 3, 2022
The Perseid meteor shower peaks between August 11 and 13, producing 50 meteors per hour. But with the bright full Moon happening on the 11th, what sort of show can we expect? Discover our viewing tips for this year’s Perseid meteor shower.
When Are the Perseid Meteor Showers?
The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year from about July 23 to August 22, with the peak from late midnight August 11 to dawn August 13.
The Perseids’ fame comes from the fact that it reliably has the brightest and most numerous meteors. Even if the viewing conditions aren’t the best, you’re likely to spot some meteors during the Perseid meteor shower.
How to See the Perseids in 2022
Unfortunately, the peak of the Perseids occurs the same night as the full Moon. The shower’s peak or “maximum” is when the greatest number of meteors per hour fall (50 per hour).
To avoid moonshine, which might wash out fainter meteors, look for the Perseids earlier in the month or after the peak (through August 22) when further from the full Moon. See your local Moon phases.
Also, look for the meteors a few hours after midnight when the Moon is lower in the sky. Or, look in the dark hours before dawn when the Moon is setting. The meteor count is always highest in the pre-dawn hours when the skies are at their very darkest and when your position on Earth is forward to the motion through the dust cloud. See your local moonrise times!
Where to Look in the Sky
People often ask us if they can see the Perseids from wherever they live. That’s an easy answer:
When it comes to meteor showers, you can view them from ANYWHERE in the world! It doesn’t matter what state or country you live in. You can also view the shooting stars ANYWHERE in the sky. Just look up!
If you’re an avid sky watcher or have a sky map, it does help to know that the Perseid shower is named for the constellation Perseus, which is its radiant. A radiant is the point of origin of the meteor shower, so the Perseid meteors will appear to be traveling away from the constellation Perseus in the night sky.
Locating the constellation Perseus might therefore help you to see as many meteors as possible.
What Are Meteor Showers?
Meteors, also known as falling or shooting stars, are caused by tiny dust trains entering Earth’s atmosphere from space. Meteor showers occur regularly each year when the Earth crosses the orbit of a comet and its debris enters the atmosphere.
The Perseid shower is associated with the Swift-Tuttle comet. When the tiny bits of dust trains strike Earth’s upper atmosphere, friction with the air causes each particle to heat and burn up. We see the result as a meteor. See more facts about meteor showers.
More Viewing Tips for Shooting Stars
Get away from light pollution! You’ll want to avoid city lights. Any hill out in the countryside works. Mountaintops are also great viewing locations because they are usually at a high enough altitude to reduce haze from air and light pollution. Plan a drive or a camping trip!
Gaze at whatever part of the sky is darkest at your location. Though it might be tempting, avoid using binoculars or a telescope. It is better to look at the whole sky than a tiny part of it, and your eyes will automatically move toward any motion up above. Avoid looking at your cell phone or other lights during the meteor shower, as this will damage your night vision.
While the shower is best when moonlight is absent, you can still watch for shooting stars if the Moon’s around. Just try to face away from the Moon when looking for meteors. Its light pollution will affect the whole sky, but it will be worse closer to the Moon.
You’ll need about 20 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the darker skies, so get out earlier and be patient.
Being comfortable is important. To avoid a stiff neck, bring a chaise lounge or reclining lawn chair. A sleeping bag on the ground works, too. Find a slight incline so that your head will be higher than your feet. Bring an extra layer of clothes if you’re worried about being cold; when you are sitting or lying outside at night, your body heat radiates directly into the sky.
Unfortunately, cloud cover can prevent you from seeing the shower. Before you travel anywhere, check our short range forecast to see whether it’ll be a stormy evening or clear skies.
The Perseids are the legacy of Comet Swift-Tuttle, discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Parnell Tuttle. The comet passes through the inner Solar System, where Earth is located, only once every 133 years. Each August, Earth encounters the trail of debris left behind by Swift-Tuttle, and we are treated to one of the best meteor showers of the year.
The rate at which the meteors fall is determined by where Comet Swift-Tuttle is in relation to Earth when Earth crosses Swift-Tuttle’s orbit. The concentration of meteors is higher when the comet is near Earth. In the early 20th century, the peak rate of the Perseid meteor shower was as low as 4 meteors per hour. When Swift-Tuttle was very close to Earth in 1993, however, the peak rate was between 200 and 500 meteors per hour.
The first record of the Perseid meteor shower comes from a Chinese manuscript written in A.D. 36. The Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli linked the Perseid shower to Comet Swift-Tuttle in 1866, four years after the comet was detected by modern astronomers. Learn about the other major annual meteor shower, the Geminid meteor shower, here.