How to… Observe the perseid shower
With no Moon to spoil the view, this year’s show could be one of the best in years - make sure you're prepared enough to catch it
Be in the right place at the right time on 13 August
Every mid-August sky-watchers flock to the countryside to watch shooting stars zip across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower. It’s one of the most reliable meteor showers, and unlike in 2017 this year there will be no bright Moon to spoil things, so we should be in for a real treat. Here’s how to make the most of this popular event.
This year’s shower peaks on the night of 12 to 13 August, but you’ll see more meteors than usual for a few nights either side of that date.
August nights can be mild, but you will get cold as the temperature drops so dress as if it’s winter not summer. You should also take a flask of a hot drink with you to warm you up, and some snacking food for when your eyes start drooping and you need an energy boost.
Choosing a good observing site is absolutely vital. Find somewhere as far away from light pollution and traffic as possible. There should also be no trees, buildings or hills around it to obstruct your view of the sky either – you want to see as much of the sky as you can so no meteors drop out of your view.
Start watching from around 11:30pm and stay out as long as you can. Lie back comfortably in a reclining chair so you’re not straining your neck. When you start to feel tired get up and have a walk around. Clap your hands together, have a drink from your flask and a bite to eat. You’ll be refreshed afterwards and ready to watch more meteors.
Don’t look straight at the constellation of Perseus. If you look off to the side, or even overhead, you’ll see more meteors than you will looking directly at the ‘radiant’.
You can watch the Perseids on your own but it can feel very lonely at 3:00am, and once you start to feel cold and tired you will be tempted to go home early. This is a mistake because most meteor showers peak in the small hours before dawn. If you go with friends it will be more fun and you can keep each other awake! Being more practical, by facing different directions you’ll see more meteors as a group than one person would on their own.
It’s fun to try and capture some meteors with a DSLR camera on a tripod, taking long exposures, but be prepared to fail totally: the chances of one flashing across the sky exactly where your camera is pointing are very slim!