Perseids below! Astronaut Ron Garan snapped this shot of a Perseid meteor (the white streak) below the International Space Station (ISS) on August 13, 2011. (Credit: Ron Garnan/NASA).
Heading out to cottage country or camping? Be sure to look for the Perseids, one of the most impressive annual meteor showers! Each year, from late July to mid-August, hundreds of meteors rain down on our skies as the Earth passes through the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle. An increasing number of shooting stars should be visible every night, until the light show culminates August 11-13. During the peak, typically in the darkest hours after midnight, up to 50 to 80 meteors per hour can streak across the sky.
Here are a few tips for meteor hunting:
If possible, head away from city lights, which make it hard to see fainter meteors. To increase your chances of seeing shooting stars, set out in search of dark skies in the countryside.
Dress warmly. Even though the Perseids occur in the summertime, it is still a good idea to bring warm (even winter) clothes. August nights can be very chilly.
Sit back and relax on a reclining chair or lie down on a blanket. Not only is it much more comfortable to observe the stars lying down, but you'll also see more that way.
Pack a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee—it will come in handy if you start to drift off or get a little chilly!
If you need to use a flashlight, place a red filter over the bulb (a red balloon will do in a bind). White light is very blinding and may affect your night vision.
Be patient. It might take a while before you see your first shooting star. Don't be quick to give up... It's worth the wait!