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How can I increase my chances of seeing a shooting star?

Shooting stars take time to find, especially if you live where most of the US does surrounded by nasty light pollution. According to the American Meteor Society, you'd expect to see 2 to 16 meteors in a really good dark site. With light pollution, you might not see any. My grandmother didn't see her first shooting star until her 70s when I took her outside on a nice night in a rural Maine.

The best way to improve your chances of seeing meteors are to:

  • Look up at the right time:
    • during a meteor shower where they're most frequent
    • In the hours before dawn. Imagine Earth to be a spaceship going through comet dust (which burn up as meteors). At dawn, you're on the part of "Spaceship Earth" that is facing forward and plowing into debris.
    • Look up when the moon's phase is close to new moon so that the sky is darker
  • Look from the right place . Go to a dark sky site where you can see fainter meteors. This site has a nice map: http://www.jshine.net/astronomy/dark_sky/

 

Updated on February 10, 2016

About the Author

Everett Schlawin

Everett's research focus is extra-solar planets or exoplanets. These are the planets far, far beyond Neptune and Pluto, which orbit other star systems. He observers exoplanet atmospheres to learn about their composition. The colors of an absorbing exoplanet atmosphere tell astronomers what the atmosphere is made of, so he uses spectrographs to split up the colors of these star-planet systems and infer which gases make up its atmosphere. He also is building a new infrared spectrograph to go on the Blanco Telescope in Chile with the TripleSpec 4 team.

Everett's Website: http://astro.cornell.edu/~schlawin/

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