Traveling through the Stars

How to Watch the Perseid Meteor Shower (And Why You Should)

Look up! Summer's most exciting celestial event is happening, and there's an easy way to see it.

Look up! No, really. August 11 and August 12 are prime viewing for the Perseid meteor shower, the annual celestial event where stargazers worldwide enter the chat. Here’s what you need to know:

What is a meteor shower?
Let’s start with the basics. According to NASA, a meteor shower occurs when pieces of space rock enter the earth’s atmosphere, hitching a ride on our gravitational pull and basically burning up in the atmosphere because they’re going so fast. When you see a “shooting star” in the sky, it’s often a meteor entering our atmosphere. A meteor shower is a grouping of those rocks that’s bound together by gravitational pull.

How do I see the Perseid meteor shower?
Prime viewing for the Perseid meteor shower will happen on the nights and early mornings of August 11, 12, and 13. Expect to see up to 20 meteors per hour.

Ideally, you’ll find an outdoor stretch of land where you can safely stare at the stars without a ton of ambient light. (And of course, with no oncoming traffic.) A beach, field, forest, canyon, or large city park are ideal. If you’re watching from your own backyard, be sure to turn off your front lights, the lights inside your house, and your phone.

Are meteor showers dangerous?
No. The American Meteor Society says that meteors “readily vaporize in the upper atmosphere… While quite spectacular to watch, a meteor storm presents no real danger to the viewer” because you are millions of miles from the action.

Why is it called the Perseid meteor shower?
Because it happens near the constellation Perseus! That body of stars is named for the Greek hero who saves his city from monsters. More recently, Perseus got a glow-up in the Percy Jackson series, which reboots him as a modern teen dealing with crushes, school stress, and a labyrinth in the underworld. (Normal.)

Can meteor showers influence my horoscope?
Most astrologers believe a meteor shower is a great metaphor for change and rebirth, but stop short of ascribing additional meaning to your zodiac sign or birth chart. But meteor showers can help boost your sense of happiness and wellbeing.

So meteor showers have health benefits?
Actually, yes! Standing in nature for 17+ minutes per day can boost your mood, and stargazing specifically helps boost our sense of awe, linking us back to the natural world with positive feelings. Stargazing also takes our focus away from artificial light sources like smartphones, which can mess with our natural sleep patterns and attention span. So if you’re looking for an easy way to recenter yourself and reconnect with the wider universe, stay up a little past your bedtime and look up!