How to See the Best Meteor Showers of 2017
This summer, try and catch one of the night sky’s most spectacular and accessible shows — a meteor shower.
We caught up with NASA meteor shower expert Bill Cooke for advice on how to see each of this summer’s showers and the inside scoop on the most spectacular. Hint: We definitely kept going past the summer, so keep reading for the best things coming this year.
“Meteor-shower observing requires nothing but your eyes; you want to take in as much sky as possible,” Cooke told Space.com. “Go outside in a nice, dark sky, away from city lights, lie flat on your back and look straight up. [Take] your choice of beverage and snacks and things like that.”
Cooke said to plan for at least a few hours outdoors — at the very least, it will take about 30 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark, and most showers only reveal their splendor in time: “You can’t observe a meteor shower by sticking your head out the door and looking for five minutes,” he said.
Meteor showers fill the sky when the Earth passes through a trail of dust and debris ejected by an asteroid or comet as it orbits the sun. As the dust and particles hit the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, they rub against air particles and heat up, disintegrating in flashes of light. Meteor showers can fill the sky, but they always travel away from the constellation they’re named after — that origin point is called the shower’s “radiant.” Larger fragments can create fireballs, too. The shower’s “peak” is when Earth passes through the heart of the dusty trail, and meteors can often be seen for days before and after that peak. Cooke recommends following the showers’ peaks with the International Meteor Organization’s 2016 Meteor Shower Calendar.