Every year around this time, the Earth is pelted with fiery stones from the frigid depths of outer space. Instead of as being as terrifying as that concept has every right to be, it is beautiful and awe-inspiring. For skywatchers, this year’s Perseid meteor shower should be a particular treat, with Jupiter and Venus getting in on the action as well. Hit the jump for ProTips on how to view the coolest light show of the year and a video from the smart folks at NASA, who when they are not sending robots to perfect 10 landings on another planet, are apparently getting other people to do their more menial tasks — like counting meteors — for them. Nice work if you can get it, right?
Get Out of Dodge: If you can afford to take a little late-night trip and, yes, lose a little sleep, getting away from city lights is going to make the Perseids a much more enjoyable show. Escaping light pollution will make for a lot more visible meteors.
Sunday Funday: This Sunday, August 12th will mark the height of the show, which goes on every year when the Earth passes near the comet Swift-Tuttle.
Coffee. Also, More Coffee: Though you can catch a glimpse of the meteors pretty much anytime after 10 or 11 pm, the best viewing is going to be in the early morning hours, just before dawn. So be prepared to either get up real early, or stay up real late.
Look to the East. Also, A Little North: The majority of the evening’s shooting stars will seem to radiate from the constellation Perseus. For those of you who (like us) have no idea where to begin looking for that cluster of stars, it is to the northeast. For those of you who (again, like us) have no idea what direction northeast is, your phone probably has a compass that will come in handy.
For more tips, we turn you over to the capable hands and dulcet tones of the professionals at NASA. While you’re watching, the space agency would appreciate if you could count meteors for them to help determine the trajectory of Swift-Tuttle. They’ve even cooked up a smartphone app to make it easy for you — at that point, it’s kind of rude not to lend a hand, right? Right.
- This is what the Perseid meteor shower sounds like
- This is a wine with a 4.5-billion-year-old meteor in it