The Perseid meteor shower peaks this weekend, the morning of Sunday, August 13. The Perseid meteor shower is one of the best meteor showers of the year with peak hourly rates of 50–60 meteors. However, to see that many, you will need a dark sky, clear weather, and a view of the entire sky. It’s best to lie down on the ground so that you can look up and see most of the sky. Some years, the light of a bright moon interferes, but this year the moon will be a thin, waning crescent, so its light will be minimal. The Perseids make for a good family event or a party with friends. Being on a weekend this year is convenient. Unfortunately, as with most meteor showers, the greatest number of meteors will be seen between local midnight (with DST, typically around 1:00 a.m.) and the onset of dawn, leaving a 3 ½ hour window for locations near 40 degrees north latitude (such as the Creation Museum). The peak is expected around 4:00 a.m. ET, so people in the USA are particularly favored this year. Though there will be less activity on other nights, there will still be many meteors over several nights on either side of the peak.
You may wish to try your hand at photographing meteor trails during the Perseid meteor shower. Here is the first photograph I took of a meteor. This was during the Perseid meteor shower in 2015. I took this photo from the deck on the back of my house in the light-polluted sky of Northern Kentucky. As you can see, there were a few clouds that morning. The bright streak is the meteor. The meteor traveled from lower left to upper right. How did I know this was a Perseid meteor? The radiant of the shower, the point from which the meteors seem to diverge, was to the lower left of the photograph, along the extension of the meteor trail. You can see that the meteor changed brightness and color. Bright meteors tend to do this. The fainter streak to the left of the meteor trail is a satellite.
I didn’t get the focus quite right in my first attempt. I was just starting to do astrophotography then—I’ve improved my work since. For instance, I took the second photograph while on my annual Grand Canyon raft trip in 2020, which happened to be during the Perseid meteor shower. I used a wide-angle lens for this photograph, so the scales of the two photographs are different. Notice the color and brightness changes in the trail of the meteor to the lower left. The light of the moon just two days past third quarter provided illumination of the canyon wall. The radiant of the meteor shower was to the upper right of the photograph, so the meteor was headed downward.
In 2021, I was rafting again in Grand Canyon during the Perseid meteor shower. The third photograph shows a meteor I captured 2 ½ days before the peak, demonstrating that there are meteors to see outside of the peak. The radiant of the shower is near the center of the photograph (I planned it that way). As you can see, the meteor trail to the lower left, if tracked backward, passes through the radiant. Like the other two meteors, you can see that this meteor varied in brightness and color too. I’m not sure what the fainter streak below the meteor trail is. It could be a meteor unrelated to the Perseids, or it could be the trail of a satellite. When trails get that faint, it is difficult to tell meteor trails and satellite trails apart.
Speaking of satellites, on this year’s raft trip in June, I was taking photographs in twilight one morning when I happened to see a recently launched line of Starlink satellites. I quickly moved my camera, changed the camera settings, and took photographs of the Starlink satellites (the fourth photograph). Though the fourth photograph was only a half-second exposure, the motion of the satellites trailed a bit.
Before I close, I want to mention one of my other passions: Red River Gorge. September 15 is our final Explore Arches event for this year, and we still have some openings. The fifth photograph is of Rock Bridge, my favorite arch, taken during our last excursion in April. Why don’t you plan to join me on this field trip as I share the wonder of my favorite place in the world? There will be a bottle of Cheerwine for each person on the hike. You can sign up here.