Who doesn’t love a good celestial event shared with loved ones? Back in August of 2017, I had the rare opportunity to view the Great American Eclipse with my younger sister, who just so happened to live in the path of totality a.k.a. the thin path across the continent where the sun would be completely obscured by the moon for a few minutes and the sky would darken to a sunset-like state. As this was the first total solar eclipse visible in the continental United States in my lifetime, I jumped at this chance. Being able to view the sun from a new perspective was such a meaningful and unique experience that I even had custom rings made with the coordinates of our viewing spot. While an opportunity like this doesn’t come knocking every year, the Perseids meteor shower does!
What is the Perseids Meteor Shower?
While meteor showers happen on a regular basis, the Perseids is a very popular meteor shower for casual viewing due to the fact that it produces several bright meteors, or “shooting stars.” The Perseids is a reliable meteor shower due to this fact, and it can be exceptionally fun to watch. The meteors seen during the Perseids meteor shower are actually particles that fall from the tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle and are collected into a formation of debris known as the Perseid Cloud. This particular annual event actually led to the discovery of the link between meteor showers and comets by Italian astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparaelli back in 1866 and meteor showers in general have been observed and studied for at least the past few centuries.
When Can I See It?
This meteor shower is visible every year from July 17th to August 24th and peaks any time between August 9th and 14th. This year it will peak between August 11th and 12th. The best time to view the shower will be between midnight and dawn on the night of the 11th. Be sure to move to a location that is dark and free from light pollution where you would normally be able to see the light of the stars. Named after its conjunction with the constellation Perseus, you can look to the north, then look just below the zig-zag constellation of Cassiopeia to get the best view. This meteor shower is primarily viewed in the Northern Hemisphere due to the location of the shower being centered around Perseus.
Why Watch a Meteor Shower?
While many summer events, indoors and outdoors, have been canceled this year due to the Pandemic, the Perseids meteor shower offers a unique opportunity to spend some quality time with your loved ones. Consider making a night of this, and invite your friends and family to a (socially distant) viewing party for special memories that will last a lifetime! I am certain that they would jump at this chance to enjoy a fun and meaningful summer activity. This can also be a perfect educational opportunity for kids to prime them for back-to-school. Now, grab your loved ones, some s’mores, and enjoy the show!
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