This weekend, the world’s most famous annual meteor shower, the Perseids, began falling. ‘Peak’ night isn’t until mid-August, but from tonight onwards, if you see a ‘shooting star’ crossing the night sky from the northwest, it’s most likely a Perseid. .
Known for being both colorful and for having bright, lingering trails, Perseids can reach up to 100 per hour, although you can usually see around 50 per hour. It’s one of the reasons millions of stargazers plan a special overnight camping trip. However, in 2022, this is not a very wise idea. There are other factors at play that make this year’s Perseid meteor shower less likely to impress around the peak.
So it’s best to ignore the many (many) articles online that say you should go camping or find dark skies on August 11-12, the peak night, because that’s just not true in 2022.
Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s Perseid meteor shower and why you should consider going to see it before the “best” night:
What is the Perseid meteor shower and when is it?
The Perseid meteor shower is the most popular “shooting star” exhibit of the year. Active between July 7 and August 24 and peaking on August 12 and 13, 2022. Best viewed from the northern hemisphere, this time of year is also the best for camping and the most popular time of year for visitors to national parks, and outdoors in general. The Perseid meteor shower is caused by Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed through the solar system in 1992 on its 133-year-long orbit around the Sun.
When is the August full “sturgeon moon”?
Unfortunately, the full “sturgeon moon” rises on…Thursday, August 11, 2022. Why “unfortunately?” The Moon is the biggest light polluter of all and when it is full or nearly full, it dramatically whitens the night sky and stays “up” most of the night. In the heart of the Perseid night! Double shot!
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 the faint meteors, which means the promise of “100 shooting stars per hour” will be dramatically broken. You may see a particularly bright meteor or two on the peak night, but that’s about it.
Best times to see the Perseids meteor shower in 2022
To be able to see shooting stars, you need dark skies. It means a moonless sky after midnight. Such a thing is only offered between the last quarter moon – when the moon rises after midnight – and a few nights after the new moon, when a crescent moon sets before midnight. It is a period of approximately 11 nights which this year falls between July 20 and July 31. Or, after the full moon has left the night sky, which is from around August 21 when it will rise well after midnight.
Since July 20 is rather too close to the start of the Perseid meteor shower, you should try to find them closer to July 31. In fact, the nights of July 29/30/31 are probably the best time to search for shooting stars. not only because the predicted dark sky to shooting star ratio will be the highest for the Perseids, but also because tonight is also the peak night for the Delta Aquarids meteor shower.
Another not so good time to see the Perseid meteor shower will be after the full moon when our satellite rises after midnight. This will be the nights of August 21/22/23, when Perseid activity will decline rapidly. They cease completely by September 1, 2022.
However, the Perseids are a gradually increasing display until the peak of the night then quickly decreases, so July 29/30/31 is when you should try the Perseids (and the Delta Aquarids).
What is the Delta Aqaurid meteor shower?
This is another annual meteor shower. It is best seen from the southern hemisphere. However, if you are at reasonably low latitudes, you can see some of its 20 “shooting stars” per hour. Add to that the growing Perseid meteor shower and its peak nights – July 29/30/31 – are the best nights this summer to see “shooting stars”.
I wish you clear skies and big eyes.