You’d love to observe a meteor shower but you’re not sure when and where to look, or what to do. To ensure you don’t miss out, I’ve got you covered with tips for watching meteor showers, including the equipment needed, and how to get the best views…
What are Meteor Showers?
If you’ve ever looked up at the night sky and seen a streak of light racing across the sky, you’ve seen a meteor.
You see meteor showers when the Earth passes through debris left behind by a comet or asteroid. As these particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they burn and create the bright streaks of light known to us as meteors.
The people who named the meteor showers, named them after the constellation from where they appear to originate. For example, the Perseid meteor shower appears to emerge from the constellation of Perseus. Leonids appears to originate from the constellation of Leo and Geminids from the constellation of Gemini.
This gives you an idea of where to look. It doesn’t mean you look directly at Perseus to see the meteors, but it helps to know the vicinity to look.
Meteor showers happen throughout the year, but some are more active than others. The best time to see a meteor shower is during its peak, when you can see the most meteors in the shortest amount of time.
Here are some popular meteor showers and when they occur:
No. Meteors per Hour
|Up to 50
|Up to 10
|Up to 20
|Up to 110
|Up to 18
Watching a meteor shower can be a fun and exciting activity for backyard astronomers. With a little planning and preparation, you can enjoy a great show right from your own backyard even.
They, like Messier Objects, are night sky objects to target to build your appreciation of astronomy.
When and Where to Watch Meteor Showers
If you’re wanting to witness the beauty of meteor showers, you need to know when and where to watch them. Here are some tips that will help you get the most out of your experience.
Best Time to Watch Meteor Showers
The best time to watch meteor showers is when the sky is darkest. This is often between midnight and pre-dawn. However, the darkest nights are around the new Moon phase — see my article on the best time to stargaze.
Of course, meteor showers are not a celestial phenomenon seen during the day.
Check the weather forecast to make sure that the sky will be clear on the night you plan to watch the meteor shower.
There are apps for backyard astronomers and websites where you can check for the best nights to see particular meteor showers from your location. One site that I find useful is timeanddate. It has a meteor shower calendar and it tells you when each peaks in your location.
Best Places to Watch Meteor Showers
The best place to watch meteor showers is away from city lights – naturally. Light pollution can make it difficult to see meteors, so try to find a dark location. Your backyard or a nearby park could be a good option if it’s not too close to streetlights or other sources of light pollution.
If you have the opportunity, you can also go to a dark sky site, which is a location that is specifically designated for stargazing. These sites are usually located far away from cities and have little to no light pollution. You can find dark sky sites near you by checking online or asking local astronomy clubs.
How to Prepare for Meteor Shower Watching
Watching meteor showers can be an awe-inspiring experience. It’s important to be well-prepared to make the most of it. Here are some tips on how to prepare for meteor shower watching.
What to Wear
When it comes to meteor shower watching, comfort is key. Dressing in layers will mean you can easily adjust your clothing to changing temperatures.
Comfy shoes are a must. You may be standing or walking for extended periods. Also, consider a hat and gloves to keep your head and hands warm.
What to Bring
To make your meteor shower watching experience as enjoyable as possible, bring along some essential items. Here are a few things you might consider:
- Blankets or chairs to sit or lay down on
- Snacks and water to keep you hydrated and nourished
- Insect repellent to keep pesky bugs at bay
- Flashlights with red filters to preserve your night vision
- Binoculars or a telescope to get a closer look at the objects you see
Tips for Watching Meteor Showers
If you want to catch a meteor shower, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of seeing as many meteors as possible. Here are some tips:
How to Increase Your Chances of Seeing a Meteor
- Find a dark location: The darker your viewing location, the more meteors you’ll see. Try to find a spot that is far away from city lights, and avoid places with tall buildings or trees that may obstruct your view of the sky.
- Check the weather: You don’t want to be outside during a meteor shower if it’s cloudy or raining. Check the weather forecast before you head out, and plan accordingly.
- Be patient: It can take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Once you’re settled in your viewing spot, give yourself some time to adjust before you start looking for meteors.
- Look up: Meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, so don’t focus on one particular area. Keep your eyes moving and scan the entire sky.
How to Photograph Meteor Showers
If you want to capture images of the meteor shower, here are some tips to get you started:
- Use a tripod: To avoid blurry images, use a sturdy tripod to keep your camera steady.
- Use a wide-angle lens: A wide-angle lens will allow you to capture more of the sky and increase your chances of capturing a meteor.
- Use a high ISO: A high ISO will make your camera more sensitive to light, which is important when photographing meteors in the dark.
- Experiment with different shutter speeds: Start with a shutter speed of 30 seconds and adjust as needed. You may need to increase or decrease the shutter speed depending on how bright the meteors are.
- Be patient: Capturing a great image of a meteor takes time and patience. Keep shooting and experiment with different settings until you get the shot you want.
With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a spectacular meteor shower. Just remember to be patient, stay alert, and enjoy the show!
How to make it a satisfying experience — Checklist
- Find a dark location away from city lights to minimize light pollution.
- Check the weather forecast and choose a clear night for viewing.
- Bring a comfortable chair or blanket to lie on and dress warmly.
- Allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness for at least 20 minutes.
- Use a red flashlight or cover your flashlight with red cellophane to preserve night vision.
- Look up towards the darkest part of the sky, away from the moon if possible.
- Be patient and keep watching for at least an hour to allow your eyes to adjust and for meteors to appear.
- Try to identify the constellations where the meteor shower is originating from.
- Consider using binoculars or a telescope to observe brighter meteors or other celestial objects.
- Enjoy the experience and appreciate the beauty of the night sky!
- Bring snacks and drinks to keep you energized and hydrated during your observation.
- Use a star chart or astronomy app to help you identify twinkling stars and constellations.
- Plan your observation during peak meteor activity for the specific shower you want to observe.
- Avoid using your phone or other devices with bright screens that can interfere with your night vision.
- Consider setting up a camera or time-lapse to capture the meteor shower.
- If possible, observe with a group of friends or fellow astronomy enthusiasts for a more enjoyable experience.
- Research and learn about the specific meteor shower you plan to observe, including its history and interesting facts.
- Be aware of any local laws or regulations regarding stargazing and outdoor activities.
- Consider joining an astronomy club or organization to learn more about observing meteor showers and other celestial events.
- Have fun and enjoy the beauty of the night sky!