The Perseid Meteor Shower 2020 will peak August 11 & 12. Grab your kids and make some memories!
Growing up, one of my favorite family traditions was viewing the Perseid meteor shower. One night each August my parents would wake my sister and me around midnight. We would load up the truck and drive far away from all city lights to get front row seats to the open sky. We’d gaze at the stars for hours and keep a running tally of the meteors we saw. Most nights we counted well over one hundred! I often reminisce of those times and look forward to sharing this tradition with my son.
I know what most of you are thinking…What the heck is the Perseid meteor shower?
The Perseid meteor shower is one of the brightest and most popular meteor showers of the year, taking place every summer. Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through the orbit of a comet. Parts of the comet that have broken off burn up as they pass through Earth’s atmosphere and create the iconic “shooting stars.” The Perseid meteor shower gets its name because the meteors appear to originate from the constellation Perseus. During its peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour!
One of the best things about the Perseid meteor shower is that everyone can enjoy it. You don’t need to know the names of any constellations or own any special equipment to watch. All you need is a comfortable reclining lawn chair, bug spray, blankets, and the open sky. No binoculars or telescopes are required.
You may think I’m crazy to suggest you wake up your children in the middle of the night to stare at the sky, but I promise you won’t be disappointed. You and your family will be surprised at how stunning meteor showers are. Enjoy a much-needed break from your every day lives, glued to computer screens and smart phones. Who cares if it interferes with everyone’s sleep cycle for one night? The lifelong memories you’ll create are worth being tired the following day!
General Tips for Watching Meteor Showers:
Go to bed early and set an alarm so you don’t oversleep. The hardest part will be getting everyone out of bed. Although you may be able to see meteors at any time during the night, the best time to view meteor showers is between midnight and dawn when the sky is darkest.
Get as far away from artificial light as possible. You’ll be able to see more meteors if you’re surrounded by complete darkness. It’s a good idea to scout out a few viewing spots ahead of time that are safe, easy to access, and will provide you with a wide view of the sky without obstructions. Head outside the Wichita city limits to find your sweet spot! The Lake Afton Observatory is currently closed, but you can still get a good view of the sky, free from trees & buildings, outside on the lawn.
Be patient. Allow at least an hour of observation time. Meteors in showers aren’t consistent and often come in spurts, which also means lulls. Don’t give up if you don’t see anything within the first 15-30 minutes. Keep watching.
Put all phones and screens away. Your eyes take 15-20 minutes to fully adapt to the night sky, so if you check your phone during the meteor shower you will have to start over. Facebook and Twitter can wait!
Check the weather before you go. The brightness of the moon and cloud coverage directly influence how many meteors you will be able to see. Thankfully, they are forecasting that the moon won’t be very bright this year, but keep checking the weather for cloud coverage as the shower approaches.