Perseid meteor shower 2019: Peak times, and how to watch

Every year in August, the Swift-Tuttle comet puts on a brilliant show in the night sky. When the Earth plows into its wake, tiny sand- and pea-sized bits of debris hit our atmosphere at 132,000 miles per hour, reach temperatures of 3,000 to 10,000 degrees, and streak across the sky in what we call the Perseid meteor shower.

This year, the meteor shower will peak in the night between Monday, August 12 and Tuesday, August 13. According to NASA, you may be able to see around 15 to 20 meteors an hour during the peak.

Many years, it’s possible to see up to 60 meteors per hour during the Perseids. However, this year, a big, bright, nearly full moon will reduce the number we’re able to see. That means the ideal night to catch the Perseids may be just before the peak on August 11. Then, NASA notes, the moon will set after 3 am, leaving dark skies to illuminate more meteors. Head over to timeanddate.com to figure out exactly when the moon will rise and set in your area. (And, because it’s 2019, you can live stream the meteor shower. The astronomy education website slooh will broadcast a show starting a 9pm on August 12).

You can also catch glimpses of the Perseid meteors in the days leading up to the peak, and you should be able to see some in the sky until the last week of August.

Lucky for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, nights are still warm. There’s no better time of year to stay up late, lay down a blanket, and stare at shooting stars. Don’t miss this. Here’s everything you need to know to watch.


Teaching Stars

Where can I spot the Perseids?

A few Perseids can typically be seen each night between July 17 and August 24. But they’ll peak around August 12.

The Perseids are so named because they appear to radiate out of the constellation Perseus — you know, the mythical Greek hero who chopped off the head of the wretched gorgon Medusa and lived to tell the tale. The meteors will rain like sparks from the hero’s righteous blade.


Wikipedia

If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, you should be able to spot the Perseids rising in the northeastern sky. It’s best to wait until 11 pm or later, when the constellation Perseus will be higher in the sky. It may also take up to an hour for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness to view the meteors.

But you don’t need to be staring right at the constellation to see the meteors. They’ll radiate out in all directions across the sky.


Where to look for the Perseids in the early evening.
Sky and Telescope

You’ll want to be in as dark of a place as you can get to — like a park far away from city lights. Check with this light pollution map to chart out a dark place to watch.

Can I see more awesome photos of the Perseids?

Sure. And if you catch any on camera yourself, feel free to tweet the pictures to @voxdotcom.


Shooting stars cross the night sky over a wooden idol near the village of Ptich outside Minsk, Belarus, during the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower on August 15, 2015.
Sergey Balay/AFP/Getty Images


A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky above desert pine trees on August 13, 2015, in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, Nevada.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images


A composite of 23 images during the 2012 Perseids in Wyoming.
David Kingham/Flickr


Perseid meteors streak across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower in Edremit district of Van, eastern Turkey, on August 12, 2015.
Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Further reading: Space debris!

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