SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — We have the opportunity to witness another spectacular celestial event this week, and an astronomer shares how to get the best view of it.
The Perseid meteor shower will soar across skies, peaking after midnight from Wednesday night into Thursday morning, according to astronomer Alex Filippenko.
He says it’s arguably the best meteor shower of the year and has tips for catching the space show.
But first, a little space lesson: Why is this happening?
According to Filippenko, who teaches at UC Berkeley, the meteor shower occurs when Earth passes near the orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Little bits of rock and ice from the comet burn up as they zip through Earth’s atmosphere at roughly 130,000 miles/hour. The debris are as tiny as grains of sand.
He recommends blocking out at least 30 minutes to an hour (the longer, the better) to get a good look. At best, you’ll see about one “shooting star” per minute.
“The Perseids are known for having many bright and fast meteors that should be visible even in a somewhat light-polluted sky, though you’ll see many more from a darker location,” he adds.
You don’t even need a telescope or binoculars.
He recommends venturing away from the coast, driving inland to avoid any fog (and for warmer nights).
Filippenko warns against driving through dangerous windy mountain roads at night, but a mountain top or hill is definitely one of the ideal locations.
Mt Tamalpais, Mt Diablo and Mt Hamilton are all good spots, he said.
If you’re really passionate about it, you can drive out to the Sierra foothills along highway 80 past Auburn, Filippenko says. Wherever you can find darker skies.
Once you arrive to your view spot, lay down a blanket or set up a reclining lawn chair for maximum comfort – and dress for the cooler temperatures! You may also want to pack bug spray, a warm drink and snacks.
The northeast direction should have the most meteors.