Why You Should Watch The Perseid Meteor Shower Tonight
The annual meteor shower will hit its peak during the morning of Friday, August 12th.
Every year the Earth passes through the trail of debris left by the Swift-Tuttle comet. This annual event is known at the Perseid Meteor Shower and it happens every August. It is named after the constellation Perseus, the Greek hero who slayed Medusa, because most of the meteors will appear to emanate from the constellation's center. This year the peak times will happen during the nights of August 11th and 12th. It may be short notice for some of you, but I highly recommend you make plans to watch the skies tonight. Here's why:
Forecasters are predicting a big outburst this year
If you tried to view the meteor shower last year, you might remember feeling disappointed with the display because it happened to line up with a bright supermoon. This year, however, forecasters are calling for an even greater amount of meteors. NASA's Meteoroid Environments Office says that, "Under perfect conditions, rates could soar to 200 meteors per hour." Perfect conditions means of course: clear skies, a new moon, and no artificial light pollution. The moon is currently Waxing Gibbous, which isn't ideal as more than 50% of it will be illuminated, but the moon will be highest at 9 PM which means that after midnight it should be low enough not to interfere with the shower too much.
Besides, after midnight and during the morning of the 12th is when the Perseids are set to reach their peak. This should give you plenty of time to drive out to find the darkest skies near you. If you aren't sure where that might be, head over to DarkSiteFinder.com. Here you can find a map with overlays that show you the level of light pollution and where you can go to avoid it.
Enjoy some solitude (or reconnect with your SO)
We all know that the world around us is getting busier and more hectic everyday, we could all use a little escape from the hustle and bustle every now and then. What better way to do that than by heading out in the wee hours of the night away from all the city lights? Chances are that where ever you go you will more than likely have it all to yourself. Pack a blanket, a thermos of coffee or hot cocoa and look up and watch the meteors fall all around.
This could also be a great way to spend some quality time with your significant other. Sure we all love to be wine'd and dine'd from time to time, but step out of the cliche dinner and a movie date and do something different! Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones. Make a game to see who can count the most falling stars or simply cuddle up under a blanket. It'll take a little effort to stay up late, but this will definitely be one of the best date ideas ever.
Learn why preserving dark skies are so important
This might not be a very obvious reason at first, but if you look at the dark sky map and see that the nearest spot is 30-40 miles out from you then it will start to make sense. Urban development and sprawl and a big issue and often the thing losing out are our dark skies. There was a time that you could see the stars even from some of the larger cities in the USA; today that's not quite the case. On several occasions I've had people tell me on camping trips how amazed they are at how bright the stars are, often because they've never really been in a dark sky area. I grew up on a farm out in the sticks, so I was used to seeing the Milky Way all the time. But for many, they may have never seen the Milky Way for themselves. I think it's essential that we protect this opportunity for ourselves and future generations. Everyone should be able to witness the galactic core in all it's glory.
Not only that, but dark skies are critical to healthy ecosystems and the animals that are active during the night. Per the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), "scientific evidence suggests that artificial light at night has negative and deadly effects on many creatures." Studies have already shown that artificial light has been drawing baby sea turtles away from the ocean and to their demise. Sea turtles hatch at night and use the bright horizon over the ocean to lead them to water, but artificial light is confusing hatchlings and leading them to their death. What other animals are we harming with poor and reckless lighting practices?
Urban development is never going to stop, but there are ways we can help. Installing dimmer and downward facing lights on our homes and in our communities is certainly a great step. The IDA maintains a searchable database of lighting products it stamps with its Fixture Seal Of Approval. Turning off lights when you aren't using them is also a no-brainer, plus it helps reduce your energy consumption which is another win! Combo!
If this issue is new to you, get out tonight to watch the meteor shower and I guarantee you will understand why preserving our dark skies is so important.
Seeing the night sky with millions of stars twinkling away is enough to get the creative juices flowing, but add to that hundreds of meteors falling per hour and you have yourself something special. Whether you're an artist, a photographer, or simply someone that likes to admire, this is the perfect time to get outside and watch. Whenever I'm stargazing I find myself pondering the contents of the cosmos and wondering what else is out there. Also, fun fact of the day, the light that's reaching us today is many light years old. Which means that when you look up at the stars, you're really looking into the past! Contemplate that for a second.
If you are a shutterbug like me, then be sure to bring your camera and a tripod. If you're new to astrophotography and don't have time to read up on wealth of information out there, fear not because we here at The Outbound have you covered.
So do yourself a favor a plan to catch this spectacular show tonight. Sure it might mean losing out on some sleep and going to work a little groggy-eyed, but trust me, it will be worth it. You don't want to miss out on one of the biggest meteor showers we've seen in years.
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.