This weekend the world’s most famous annual meteor shower, the Perseids, begins its fall The “peak” night isn’t until mid-August, but if you see a “shooting star” streaking across the night sky from the northwest starting tonight, it’s probably a Perseid.
Known for being colorful and having bright, continuous trails, Perseids can number as many as 100 per hour, although you can usually see about 50 per hour. That’s one reason millions of stargazers plan a special camping trip for peak nights. However, in 2022 this is not a very smart idea. There are other factors at play that make this year’s Perseids meteor shower less likely to impact around the peak.
So it’s best to ignore the many (many) articles online that say you should go camping or otherwise look for dark skies on August 11/12 – because that’s not true in 2022.
Here’s what you need to know about this year’s Perseid meteor shower—and why you should consider visiting before the “best” night:
What and when are the Perseid meteor showers?
The Perseid meteor shower is the most popular “shooting star” show of the year. Active between July 7 and August 24 and peaks on August 12/13, 2022. Best seen from the Northern Hemisphere, this time of year is also the best for camping and the most popular time of year to be in a national park, and generally in the outdoors. The Perseid meteor shower is caused by Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed through the Solar System in 1992 during its 133-year orbit around the Sun.
When is August’s full ‘sturgeon moon’?
Sadly the full “Sturgeon Moon” rises on… Thursday August 11, 2022. Why “sad?” The Moon is the biggest light-polluter and when it is full or near it it significantly washes out the night sky and stays “up” most of the night. Right Peak Perseids Night! Double hit!
In fact the moon will be so bright that it will make the peak night of the Perseid meteor shower rather insignificant. Your eyes simply won’t see faint meteors, meaning the “100 shooting stars per hour” promise will be spectacularly broken. You may see one or two particularly bright meteors on the peak night, but that’s about it.
The best time to see the Perseid meteor shower is in 2022
You want a dark sky to see shooting stars successfully. It means moonless sky after midnight. Such things are offered only between the last quarter moon – when the moon rises after midnight – until a few nights after the new moon, when a crescent moon sets before midnight. It is a period of about 11 nights which falls between July 20 and July 31 this year Or, after the full moon exits the night sky, which is around August 21 when it rises well after midnight.
Since July 20 is so close to the start of the Perseid meteor shower, you should try to look for them around July 31. In fact, the nights of July 29/30/31 are probably the best time to look for shooting stars. Not only will the dark sky/predicted shooting star ratio be the highest for the Perseids, but that night is also the highest for the Delta Aquarid meteor shower.
Another less good time to see the Perseids meteor shower is after the full moon when our satellite rises after midnight. It will be the night of August 21/22/23, during which time Perseid activity will decrease rapidly They will be completely closed by September 1, 2022.
However, the Perseids are a display that gradually waxes on the peak night then fades quickly, so it’s July 29/30/31 when you should try for the Perseids (and Delta Aquarids).
What is the Delta Acourid meteor shower?
This is another annual meteor shower. It is best seen from the southern hemisphere. However, if you are at a reasonably low latitude, you may see 20 or more of its “shooting stars” per hour. Combine that with the waxing Perseids meteor shower, and its peak nights—July 29/30/31—are the best nights to see “shooting stars” this summer.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.