One of the year’s most glorious celestial events is set to peak this weekend, and New Yorkers will have a rare opportunity to take it in.
The Perseids, an annual meteor shower that is widely considered to be the best of the year, occurs when Earth's orbit passes through a trail of debris left by the Swift-Tuttle comet, a real minx of a space rock that takes 133 years to orbit the sun. The meteors are visible this year from July 14 through August 24, but their activity is anticipated to peak this weekend on the night of Sunday, August 12 and extending into the early morning hours on Monday. NASA says that, at the Perseids highest rate, up to 100 meteors will streak across the sky every hour.
New Yorkers are typically unable to view a good portion of the night sky's most spectacular happenings—light pollution makes most constellations all but invisible. But the Perseids are a completely different kind of girl, especially this year. A new moon will take place on Saturday, August 11, which will help darken the sky while the shower peaks. The meteors are bright enough to cut through the amount of light emitted from the city at night, allowing residents here to take in their glory in a similar fashion as, say, folks in rural Pennsylvania.
Still, if you want to view the shower, you'll want to find a spot that minimizes light pollution, says Jackie Faherty, an astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History. “I highly recommend rooftops or clearings like those in Central Park or Inwood Hill Park [for viewing the Perseids],” she says. “You can even get great views from the river where you have large amounts of the sky available to you.”
Faherty notes that while the Perseids will still be visible in the city while they peak this weekend, your best bet for viewing the celestial fireballs is to get out of town to a darker area. And wherever you end up viewing them, she says patience is key.
“My number one advice is to dedicate at least one to two hours of your night to watching,” Faherty says. “This isn't a sprint, but a marathon. It's much more about catching that breathtaking fireball rather than seeing several of them flying in front of you in a short period of time.”
If you do end up staying up late to view the Perseids this weekend, Faherty has a delightful piece of advice for taking in the glory of the universe: “Get into a comfortable position, bring a drink, a loved one, and a sense of wonder.”
Any New Yorker worth their salt commits to that exact line of action on a regular basis—the Perseids only make it sweeter.