- The Perseid meteor shower will continue through Sept. 1.
- The shower is known for its bright, long streaks of light and dazzling “fireballs.”
- The showers are best seen in the pre-dawn hour, but can be visible as early as 10 p.m.
Keep watching the skies!
We’re in the middle of the annual Perseids meteor shower when streaks and little explosions cross the night sky in a glorious slow-motion fireworks display for the patient and persistent stargazer.
This year is especially good for meteor spotting.
“Unlike in 2022, we’re going to be treated to a relatively dark night during the annual Perseids meteor shower in 2023,” said Tim Brothers, technical instructor and observatory manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Thankfully, the moon will be below the horizon and only 10% illuminated for much of the peak nights of Aug. 12 and Aug. 13.”
What is the Perseids meteor shower?
A meteor shower happens when the Earth passes through a cloud of debris, causing its components to explode or burn up in our atmosphere and leave a bright streak across the sky.
The Perseids are bits of ice and rock left behind by Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which last passed close to Earth in 1992, according to Space.com. Most of the Perseids are about the size of a grain of sand and they’re moving at 133,200 mph when they enter the atmosphere and hit temperatures up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, compressing and heating the air in front of it.
Meteor showers are named after the constellation they seem to be coming from, although the constellation is not the actual source. “From Earth’s perspective,” Space.com said, “the Perseids appear to come approximately from the direction of the Northern Hemisphere constellation Perseus.”
The Perseids aren’t Earth’s biggest meteor shower, that would be the Leonids in November. But the Perseids are often considered the best and most visible since the shower is large, it happens in the warm summer months for more comfortable nighttime viewing, and at its peak can mean rates of up to 100 meteors an hour in a clear, dark sky.
Perseids also are known for their fireballs, NASA said, “larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak.”
Will the Perseids meteor shower be visible in Florida?
The Perseids are visible anywhere in the North Hemisphere when it’s dark. The Perseus constellations rises out of the northeast so the east coast of Florida should get a great view.
What’s the best way to watch meteor showers?
You want a dark sky. This year the thin crescent moon won’t rise until just before dawn, which helps, but the bright lights of a city can wash out the sky and make meteor-spotting impossible.
If you can, get to a rural or empty area with as little light as possible or head to the beach away from hotels and condos and find a spot with a clear, unclouded view of the night sky. NASA has these tips for meteor-watching:
- Plan to be there at least an hour to see anything. Dress comfortably and bring something cushy to sit or lie on. NASA suggests lying on your back with your feet facing northeast and looking up to take in as much of the night sky as possible.
- Turn off your own lights and don’t look at your phone. Allow your eyes up to 30 minutes to adjust to the dark.
- Don’t use a telescope or binoculars, the odds of catching anything in that narrow view are small. Let your eyes relax and don’t look in any specific spot. Relaxed eyes will quickly zone in on any movement.
When is the best time to watch the Perseids meteor shower?
You can watch for them anytime, the Perseids last from July 14 through Sept. 1 this year. The best time to check out the show is between midnight and sunrise, according to NASA, especially during the pre-dawn hours. But it’s possible to see meteors from the Perseids as early as 10 p.m.
But the peak dates will be Aug. 12 and 13, when Earth is striking the densest cloud of debris from the comet and viewers in dark, rural areas can see them at a rate of 100 meteors or more an hour.
Supermoons and a meteor shower:When to see them all in August
Where are the best places in Florida to watch the Perseids meteor shower?
For a place called the Sunshine State, Florida has plenty of places to get dark. Camping in state parks and local campgrounds can be some of the best places to see stars, and there’s nothing like watching a meteor shower from a boat in the water on a dark night. Here are some good spots.
Located in Okeechobee, this may be the darkest spot in Florida.
Recognized as Florida’s first Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association, the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve boasts some excellent inky-black night sky views. Call ahead, specialized astronomy pad sites can be booked along with regular campsites.
The fees are $4 per vehicle (two to eight people), $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, or passengers with an annual pass. Campsites are $16 a night plus tax and a $6.70 reservations fee plus $7 nightly utility fee for water, electricity and sewer (not applicable for tent camping).
Big Cypress National Preserve in South Florida is 729,000 acres of rugged, untouched Florida wilderness and the country’s first national preserve. The incredibly diverse swamp ecosystem offers camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, and bird watching, but at night it’s all about the stars. In 2016, Big Cypress became the second Florida location to be designated an official Dark Sky Park.
Entry to the park is free, but camping fees range from $10 to $30 per night.
The St. George Island State Park isn’t only the best beach in the U.S., according to Dr. Beach’s annual list. It’s about 70 miles away from either Panama City or Tallahassee, far from major city lights. There’s even an observation platform, built by volunteers just for stargazing.
Fees are $4 per single-occupant vehicle, $6 per vehicle (2-8 people), $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, or passengers with an annual pass. Campsites are $24 a night plus tax and a $6.70 reservations fee plus $7 nightly utility fee for water, electricity and sewer (not applicable for tent camping).
Chiefland Astronomy Village, near Manatee Springs State Park and about an hour west of Gainesville, is run by non-professional stargazers but it’s open to the public. The private 5-acre field features showers, a clubhouse, restrooms, a picnic area, electricity, and 360 degrees of horizon with nothing in the way.
If you don’t get there in time for the Perseids, check out their Astrofest Star Party in November.
The Billy Dodd Observing Field is open to members 24/7 all year round. Annual membership is $30.
During the day, come to Sebastian Inlet for the surfing, shell collecting and pristine beaches. But at night, the semi-isolated beaches give you an amazing panoramic view of the sky over the Atlantic.
Fees are $4 per single-occupant vehicle, $8 per vehicle (2-8 people), $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, or passengers with an annual pass. Campsites are $28 a night plus tax and a $6.70 reservations fee plus $7 nightly utility fee for water, electricity and sewer (not applicable for tent camping).
Fakahatchee offers a 2,500-foot-long boardwalk through the Everglades swamp, hiking and biking trails throughout, and a scenic drive. But at night, when it’s quiet and dark, you can take your boat or canoe our on the lakes and river to lie back and just watch it all happen.
Fees are $3 per vehicle (up to 8 people), $2 for pedestrians and bicyclists.
If you want even more than a panoramic view, Florida’s rural islands and keys around the state can give you that. The sky is a brilliant, star-studded dome over this little string of islands, perfect for watching sunsets, blue skies, and meteors. The Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve offers over 5,000 acres to skywatch from with no fee, but plenty of places in Cedar Key are perfect to stand and look up. And check with the welcome center, astronomers occasionally bring telescopes and do stargazing presentations.
For the boating astronomers out there. Waccasassa Bay, in the town of Inglis, is only accessible by boat but it sets the stage for a spectacular view with the horizon broken only by tree islands of red cedar, cabbage palm and live oak.
There are three primitive campsites available on a first-come, first serve-basis. There is no camping fee.
Inside Markham Park in the city of Sunrise by the Everglades, the Fox Astronomical Observatory offers stargazing episodes to the public. An observatory was built in 1977 using a telescope donated by retired astronomer Dr. Joseph Dennison Fox. It now features multiple telescopes as well as places for visitors to set up their own. The Fox Observatory is open to the public every Saturday night, rain or shine.
There is no fee to enter Markham Park or the observatory.
One of the best places to see stars in Florida and one of the only places in the US where you can see the Southern Cross constellation, Bahia Honda State Park is in the Florida Keys, on Big Pine Key, about 100 miles south of Miami. Campers and overnight guests can walk along the Old Bahia Honda bridge and store up into the sky.
And don’t forget the rest of Big Pine Key, the whole area offers amazing views and you can hit the beach for a stunning view or take a boat out to the reef.
Fees are $4.50 per single-occupant vehicle, $8 per vehicle (2-8 people), $2.50 for pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, or passengers with an annual pass. Campsites are $36 a night plus tax and a $6.70 reservations fee plus $7 nightly utility fee for water, electricity and sewer (not applicable for tent camping).
Can’t get to a park? Just drive a little.
If you don’t have a convenient state park nearby, look for a secluded area away from the cities and the lights where it’s safe to park and sit for a while. If you’re near the coast, drive along the beach and look for a dark spot. If you live in a rural area, grab a beer and set up in your backyard.