How can I watch the Perseid meteor shower? (Beginner)

We have a bunch of "cousins" sleeping out in suburban Seattle. Ages 6 to 18 plus rather uninformed adults. I remember this time of year is good for "shooting stars". I would like to alert our gang to watch the skies---and would like to know at least enough so as not to misinform them.

The Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on the early mornings of August 12-13 each year are one of the most watched meteor showers around, mostly because it happens during the warm nights of summer and because they are usually bright. You may usually be still able to see some meteors a few days before and after the peak. All of the meteors will appear to come out of the constellation Perseus (hence the Perseid shower) which is kind of by Cassiopeia (the "W" shaped one). If you can find the Big Dipper, use the pointer stars (the two opposite the handle on the cup) to find the north star. Roughly opposite the Big Dipper (across the North Star) you will find Cassiopeia. Perseus is just a little further still. The best way to watch meteors is just by sitting back and waiting. They show up best to the naked eye, where you can get a good wide view of the sky.

If you find a good dark location with an unobstructed view of the night sky, the only obstacle remaining is the moon. If it is a bright full moon, the show won't be as good as new moon. The phase of the moon on August 12-13 will vary year to year, so check a website like Sky and Telescope's to find out when the peak is and how bad the moonlight will be.

Also something to look out for is a pass of the International Space Station. Heavens Above is a good site to tell you more about this - like when and where in the sky it will pass over your location.

Updated by Everett Schlawin on July 18, 2015.


About the Author

Karen Masters

Karen Masters

Karen was a graduate student at Cornell from 2000-2005. She went on to work as a researcher in galaxy redshift surveys at Harvard University, and is now on the Faculty at the University of Portsmouth back in her home country of the UK. Her research lately has focused on using the morphology of galaxies to give clues to their formation and evolution. She is the Project Scientist for the Galaxy Zoo project.

Twitter:  @KarenLMasters

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