Perseid Meteor Shower 2020: A Super Simple & Useful Guide
Don’t expect a spectacular spectacle this year, but if you’ve got an hour, here’s a delightful event worth an hour of your time
One of my fondest childhood memories was lying awake on a cot in a campsite on a warm summer night, holding out for at least one shooting start before I closed my eyes. I don’t remember ever being disappointed. Unlike the light-polluted night skies under which most of us live today, our campsite was up in the mountains, miles away from even the smallest town, nothing much brighter than the yellow flicker of a Coleman lantern.
We camped a lot back then, and sometimes in August the nightly shooting star show turned into a shower. I later learned those spectacular outbursts were part of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, not stars at all, but tiny bits of cosmic flotsam crashing through our atmosphere at breakneck speed.
This year’s Perseid show is not expected to be spectacular, but it’s always pretty reliable. If you have an hour to kill and you’re a night owl or early riser and you live under fairly dark and clear skies, it’ll almost surely be worth your time—especially if you can share the experience with someone who hasn’t seen many shooting stars before, especially if that someone is a kid.
Best time to watch this year is as late as possible, each night but before moonrise on Aug. 11, 12, 13. Or, you can start an hour or so before the break of dawn, when there are more meteors, because you’re standing on the part of the Earth that is rolling toward them (kinda like seeing more bugs in your windshield than out the back window). But the moon will outshine the fainter meteors in the predawn, so try to find a spot where the moon is behind trees or a building.
The absolute peak stretch will be Tuesday night, Aug. 11 through the predawn of Aug. 12. That’s when Earth will pass through the densest part of the multiple streams of debris laid down across centuries by the comet Swift-Tuttle, on each pass of it’s 133–year trip around the sun.
The moon rises a little after midnight on Aug. 11 and about a half-hour later each subsequent night (times in your location).