As an avid skywatcher, I look forward to the annual summer meteor showers that create mesmerizing displays of light. It’s a nice feeling to leave behind the city lights, lie down in a field with friends, and stare at the sky for hours on end watching for meteors to streak across the sky. So, what meteor showers should you be watching for?
Eta Aquarids – May 5th to 6th
If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the meteor shower for you! In fact, it’s considered to be the best meteor shower in the Southern Hemisphere. Although people in the Northern Hemisphere can see it, they’ll see greatly reduced numbers.
For this shower, the prime viewing time is about two hours before dawn when the radiant (the apparent point of origin of the meteors) comes over the East horizon. Globally, this means going out at about 4 a.m. your local time. If you miss the peak time on the 5th and 6th, you should still be able to see them on May 7th. This shower has a broad peak which often results in meteors flying before and after the peak date.
Delta Aquarids – Late July
This one, like the Eta Aquarids, also favors the Southern Hemisphere and tropical latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. Although the peak period is July 27th to the 30th, this meteor shower lacks a defined peak. These meteors tend to be fairly steady in their appearance in late July and early August, so keep an eye on the sky. However, due to the waxing gibbous moon in August that will intrude on your view, you’ll want to plan to view them in July for the best experience. Like the Eta Aquarids, you’ll want to go out an hour or two before dawn for the optimal viewing experience.
Perseids – August 12th-13th
This is one of the best meteor showers for people in the Northern Hemisphere. The meteors radiate from the Perseus constellation, but you don’t need to be looking at the radiant point as they appear across the entire sky. These meteors are fast and bright and tend to leave trains behind them. As the night progresses, they seem to strengthen in numbers. You can see them from late night till dawn, but this year they will be competing with the light of the waning gibbous moon.
How to Watch Meteor Showers
Try to find a dark area that is away from light pollution and lets you see the most sky. A field is the best place to head to. Your eyes will take time to adjust to the darkness, so don’t expect to catch anything right away. Be prepared to sit out there for a few hours to really take it all in; the longer you’re outside, the more you’ll see. In the end, just hope for a clear night. Bring some snacks, get comfortable, and look to the sky for a spectacular show.