How to Watch the Perseid Meteor Shower

Watching a meteor shower at the right place and at the right time can make all the difference. The Perseid meteor shower tends to be one of the more active meteor showers of each year and hopefully this year will be no different!

There will be just a bit of moonlight, but with the proper planning you'll still be in for a great night! Let's take a quick look at what you need to know to make the most of your time out under the stars.

When is the Peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower in August, 2020?

The Perseid meteor shower will peak on the mornings of August 11th, 12th, and 13th. 

Let's dive in to a few key facts about the Perseids that will help you see as many meteors as possible!

Where to Look?

Meteor showers are generally named for the constellation that the meteors appear to come from which is often referred to as the "radiant." For the Perseids, that constellation is called Perseus. This constellation is visible in the North East sky. 

If you spent some time comet gazing while Comet NEOWISE was visible before sunrise, those locations would make a great spot to return back to for the meteor shower! 

When to Look?

For the Perseids this year, the Moon will be rising right around or shortly after midnight. This is important to consider as the light from the Moon will wash out some of the more faint meteors. The radiant of the meteor shower will break the horizon earlier in the evening, so your viewing time can technically start before midnight. Since it seems like the peak of the Perseids will be a bit spread out, you can probably head out earlier in the night. It just may not be as active as later in the night/post midnight hours.

As the radiant gets further from the horizon and higher in the sky, more meteor may be visible. When it's closer to the horizon, you may be missing meteors that are traveling below your line of vision. This is why it's often better to view meteor showers in the early AM hours, when their radiant is higher or over head.

How to Find Perseus or the Radiant of the Perseids

There are a number of amazing stargazing apps that will help you locate the right place in the sky to look. If you're a photographer, I highly recommend looking in to the app, PhotoPills! It costs 9.99, but is well worth the price. Other apps for non-photographers include StarWalk and Sky Safari.With any of these apps, you can hold your phone up to the sky, even without service, and it will help you know which direction will be best!

Using Star Walk to Find the Radiant

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Key Meteor Shower Knowledge

Here are a few tips that will help no matter which meteor shower you're hoping to see! 

Active Days vs Peak  - 

Depending on where you're looking, you might see a meteor shower listed with a specific date or a range of dates. So, which is right? Well, both are correct, but mean different things. Meteors are likely to be visible over the course of a number of dates, which will commonly be listed, and then a higher number of meteors will be visible during the peak of the meteor shower.

This is good news! If you see the peak listed as the 11th, but you can't make it out to dark skies, that's okay! You still might have great conditions the night before or after!

What to know about the Peak -

Most often the date you see listed will refer to the early AM hours of that day. Now that you know to look for the peak date of the meteor shower, it's important to remember that!

So, if the peak is listed as the 11th, this generally will mean the hours after midnight until sunrise will be what they are referring to by this. I know when I first saw dates listed, I assumed the opposite and would plan to head out that evening instead of the morning hours!

How to Photograph the Perseid Meteor Shower

Meteors can travel across the sky at speeds up to 160,000mph! That means you need to be ready if you want to get a good photo! Let's go through a few key tips that will help you get an awesome photo of a meteor.

1) Gear Selection -

- a) Wide Angle Lens - Fast Aperture  - I like to use a wide angle lens with a faster aperture when photographing meteor showers. My go-to lens in the Sigma 14mm f1.8 ART. By choosing a wide focal length (ideally 24mm or wider) we will capture a larger portion of the sky. This gives the best chances of catching a meteor as it streaks through our frame. The faster aperture (ideally f2.8 or faster) will allow more light in and help our overall image at night.


- b) Sturdy Tripod - You'll be taking long exposures to help capture the stars and increase your chances of catching a meteor, so keeping your tripod steady will be key! The tripod I've been using lately is the Robus RC 5570


- c) Wired Remote -  By placing your camera in a continous shoot mode and locking down the button on your remote, it will allow your camera to take exposures back to back. This helps make sure you don't miss a shot! I use a simple third party remote that costs under $10. You can check it out here - Vello Wired Remote.

Exploding Perseid Meteor

2) Shooting Tips

Use these tips once your camera is all set up and you're ready to start shooting!

- a ) Focusing Your Lens -  To keep most of your foreground and stars sharp, you'll want to focus your lens to infinity. This may not be the same spot for each lens, so you can try practicing during the day if you've never done this before!

- b) Continuous Shoot Mode - This is especially important if you're using a wired remote! Change your camera to either low or high speed shooting mode. This will allow it to take photos consecutively with as short a gap as possible!

- c) Include the radiant - When framing your image, use the info above to find the radiant of the meteor shower and include it in your composition! It's possible to see/capture meteors in other parts of the sky, but this will increase your chances!

Tips for Viewing the Meteor Shower

Picking your location to view the Perseid Meteor shower will be KEY in how many meteors you end up seeing and/or photographing! For the best viewing conditions, you will need to find dark skies that ideally have a clear view to the North East!

Use sites like www.cleardarksy.com or Google "(Your Location) light pollution map" to help find a spot to go!

Once you're in your viewing location, be sure to only use a red light so your eyes can adjust to the dark. Red lights are less harsh on our night vision and the more our eyes are adjusted, the more we can see in the night sky!

Best Places Near San Diego to view Perseids

There are a number of great options for viewing the Perseid meteor shower near San Diego! Even better news, if you were recently out chasing Comet NEOWISE before sunrise, you might already have a few places in mind! Here are a few suggestions for your stargazing enjoyment!

1) Mount Laguna - Just a short drive from San Diego and you'll be under reasonably dark skies. You'll have a great view of the Milky Way and, in most locations, a great view of the NE. I recommend checking the wind forecast as it can be pretty rough in this area!

2) Palomar Mountain - A bit further North of Mt. Laguna and an equally great option for meteor gazing!

3) Anza Borrego State Park - The wide open spaces make for incredible stargazing out in the desert. Keep in mind, the day time temps are very high this time of the year. It will cool down at night, but will still on the warmer side.

4) Joshua Tree National Park - You'll spend a little more time in the car if you're coming from San Diego, but you won't regret it. Joshua Tree has both incredible landscapes and incredible dark skies to match! 

5) Trona Pinnacles - The furthest drive from San Diego on the list, but also a great option if you're coming from Los Angeles. This area is otherwordly and will no doubt be a great place to view the meteor shower from.

Post Processing

I do all of my post processing in both Lightroom and Photoshop on my Dell XPS 15 9500.

If you need help with your post processing, I'm happy to offer 20% off my Astrophotography Presets Bundle for Lightroom with the code "perseid"! <- that link will apply the discount right away.

When you purchase the preset bundle, you'll get automatic access to any new add-ons I create in the future.

I use these presets for all my edits and took quite a long time before I felt they were ready to share with the world. You can see them in action by visiting www.astrophotographypresets.com

I hopes this helps your viewing and photographing of the Perseid Meteor shower! As always, send questions and let me know how everything goes over on my Instagram account!

I'll be doing a couple of Q&A's in my story and try my best to get back to everyone! If I happen to miss your question the first time, feel free to send it back in or send via DM! 

Good luck heading out and enjoy your time under the stars!

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