The Perseid meteor shower ranks among the favourite celestial spectacles for astronomy buffs, but you don’t need any special equipment or ethereal knowledge to enjoy it. With the right timing and a dark sky, you can view it from anywhere in the world, though residents of the Northern Hemisphere are treated to a far more spectacular show, featuring 50 to 100 meteors per hour.
The shower’s origin
From around July 17 to August 24 each year, the Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle, resulting in fast, bright meteors that usually leave substantial trains. The comet’s debris trails in its orbit, leaving a heavenly display that typically becomes most visible after the first week of August.
The shower is named after the constellation Perseus, which appears to be the Perseid meteors’ origin when you trace them backwards. In Greek mythology, Perseus was the son of Zeus and the mortal Danae, and the Perseid meteor shower was believed to commemorate Zeus’s visit to Danae in a golden shower.
Best times to view
For the best view of this year’s meteors, you’ll need to wait until the moon wanes, giving way to a darker sky. This will occur around the first week of August, and evenings from August 13 to 15 will offer the best show.
You might also want to brew some coffee for the best view–the shower typically hits full force between midnight and the wee hours of the morning.
Where to see it in Canada
Knowledge of the constellations won’t be necessary, as the meteor shower appears throughout the entire night sky. But be sure to look for a dark, unobstructed sky that’s void of urban light pollution.
And though you can view the shower from almost any place in Canada where city lights won’t interfere, you can visit a Royal Astronomical Society of Canada-designated Dark-Sky Preserve fort the best show:
• McDonald Park Dark-Sky Park, Fraser Valley, BC
• Jasper National Park Dark-Sky Preserve, AB
• Beaver Hills Dark-Sky Preserve, AB
• Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park Dark-Sky Preserve, SK/AB
• Grasslands National Park, SK
• Gordon’s Park, Manitoulin Island, ON
• Bruce Peninsula National Park and Five Fathoms National Marine Park, ON
• Point Pelee National Park, ON
• Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve, ON
• Mont-Mégantic International Dark-Sky Preserve, QC
• Kejimkujik National Park, NS
• Kouchibouguac National Park, NB
• Fundy National Park, NB
• Mount Carleton Provincial Park, NB