background_fid (1).jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
We’re in our Fall Membership Drive. Please make a contribution today.
NPR News

The 'Best Meteor Shower Of The Year' Is Peaking Soon. Here's How You Can Watch

In this 30-second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower in Spruce Knob, W.Va.
In this 30-second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower in Spruce Knob, W.Va.

Updated August 11, 2021 at 11:46 AM ET

The Perseid meteor shower is upon us, peaking this week, and it will fill the night sky with streaks of light and color until Aug. 24.

Known as the "best meteor shower of the year" by NASA because of its fast, bright and plentiful meteors that can be easily viewed outside during the warm summer months, the shower is not one to be missed. It will peak around Aug. 12, where up to 100 meteors an hour can be caught shooting across the sky at 37 miles per second, leaving long streaks in their wake.

Here's how you can see it.

Perseid meteor showers are known for their "fireballs"

The Perseid shower happens when Earth makes its way through the trail of cosmic debris left behind by 109PSwift-Tuttle — a comet that won't return to the inner solar system until 2125.

The meteors are known for their fireballs, and viewers can expect to see larger, brighter explosions of light and color in the sky that will appear for longer than a typical meteor streak.

The meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus, their namesake, but finding the constellation is not necessary to view the shower — they will appear all over the sky.

Pick a spot with a clear, dark sky

For best viewing, NASA says to stay up late the night of Aug. 11. Alternatively, waking up extra early on Aug. 12 will also do the trick, as the shower's peak occurs in the pre-dawn hours. If the sky is clear and free of light pollution, the meteors can be clearly seen all across the Northern Hemisphere sky without the help of equipment. NASA recommends not looking at your phone while watching so your eyes adjust more easily to the dark.

You can use NASA's meteor calculator and the International Dark Sky Association's dark sky finder to find the best viewing spot for you.

Not a clear night? Not an early riser? Meteors can also be seen as early as 10 p.m. on any night the shower is happening before or after the peak, just likely fewer in number.

But, wait, there's more

The dramatic Perseids display is your best bet for celestial entertainment but two other meteor showers — Southern Delta Aquariids and Alpha Capricornids — are both active now and they will peak from July 28-29, according to the American Meteor Society.

AMS describes the Southern Delta Aquariids as a strong shower that will be best seen from the southern tropics North of the equator — so mostly, states along the southern U.S. border. But the moon, which is expected to be fairly bright overnight, may make it more difficult to see the radiating meteors in the sky. It will be active through Aug. 23.

Meanwhile, the Alpha Capricornids is less flashy and rarely produces more than five shower members per hour, the AMS says. But, the organization adds, "What is notable about this shower is the number of bright fireballs produced during its activity period." It can be seen equally well on either side of the equator through Aug. 15.

Josie Fischels is an intern on NPR's News Desk.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.