Perseid Meteor Shower, Aug 2023

The annual Perseid meteor shower (arguably the best meteor shower of the year) will peak on the night of August 12/13 (conveniently Sat./Sun.), but the nights of August 10/11, 11/12, 13/14, and 14/15 should reveal some Perseids as well. Unlike last year, when light from the full moon brightened the sky and washed out the dimmer meteors, this year the waning crescent moon will not be a problem — skies will be dark (if you’re away from city lights).

In general, view Perseids after 11 pm local time — or better, after 12 am (indeed, the pre-dawn hours should actually yield the largest hourly rate). Before about 11 pm, few Perseids are visible — though they should be longer streaks than average, skimming through Earth’s atmosphere because the “radiant” from which they appear to come will be closer to the horizon. Also, you don’t have to account for your specific *time zone* — the times I list above are fine *regardless* of where you are (though the northern hemisphere is more favorable than the southern hemisphere, for this particular shower).

The meteor shower occurs because Earth flies through debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle (whose orbital period in a long ellipse is about 130 years), and the little bits of rock and ice (typically the size of a grain of sand or a small pebble) will burn up as they zip through Earth’s upper atmosphere (altitude about 60 miles) at roughly 133,000 miles/hour (37 miles per second).  (“Shooting stars” or  “falling stars” are not stars at all!) Only very rarely do fragments reach the ground.

If you wish to view the meteor shower, it’s best do so for at least half an hour (but an hour or longer is better). Try to get as far away from city lights as possible. The Perseids are known for having many bright and fast meteors that should be visible even in a somewhat light-polluted sky, though you’ll see many more from a darker location. *NO* binoculars or telescopes are needed; just look at the sky with your unaided eyes after getting dark-adapted (this can take up to 15 minutes). Choose a wide-open sky, without buildings or trees in the way. Dress warmly, and pack a hot beverage if you want to. Bug spray might be useful, too, depending on where you are. You should lie down on a mattress, sleeping bag, or reclining lawn/deck chair for greater comfort, if you wish.

Looking anywhere in the sky is fine, but straight up often has the darkest sky. Views to the northeast should provide the most meteors, though their streaks will be shorter than if you look elsewhere. If you have clear and dark skies, you might see 20-40 meteors per hour. (The media often report 100 per hour, but that’s from the darkest locations, with a completely clear and unobstructed sky, at the shower’s peak intensity.)

There are many useful references with additional information and viewing tips, etc.; type “Perseid meteor shower 2023” in your favorite search engine. See, for example, .

Wishing you clear skies,