Stargazers, brace yourselves for an epic meteor shower that will kick your ordinary star gazing routine up a couple of notches. The Perseid meteor shower, an annual cosmic show that makes its appearance every year at the height of summer, will reach its maximum intensity tonight, August 11, through Friday morning.
The shower usually comes to an impressive peak of up to 100 meteors per hour, per the New York Times, but this year will be particularly spectacular. NASA scientists are expecting about 160-200 meteors each hour, making for an especially impressive light show.
This outburst (a shower with an unusually high number of meteors) is the first one we’ve seen in the Perseids since 2009, according to NASA, and is due to the comet’s trail being pulled a little closer to us by Jupiter’s gravity.
With an average speed of 132,000 mph, the meteor trails that we’ll see are going to be pretty bright and long and the ionized lights will linger and wave in the sky even after the meteor is gone.
And while you might be able to spot a sign of the Perseids a short while after the peak times, you’ll definitely experience the best spectacle sometime between midnight and dawn.
Being present at the right time may be a huge factor in catching the show, but finding the perfect viewing spot is just as crucial.
Your best bet would be to drive to a dark place away from the blinding city lights, but where to go? Well, we’ve got you covered on the perfect sites that will almost guarantee you’ll be able to make a few starry wishes tonight.
Here are the best places in Utah for watching this year’s Perseids meteor shower:
Natural Bridges National Monument
Noted as one of the Top 10 Stargazing Sites in the World by Men’s Journal, Natural Bridges National Monument is deemed as one of the darkest places in our solar system, making it the perfect place to catch a few comets (or a few hundred!) as you relax by the ancient canyons.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Far from the lights of civilization, Bryce Canyon National Park is known to be up to six times darker than many astronomical research locations – perfect for viewing the night sky without any luminous distractions. According to the park’s website, Bryce Canyon is so dark that you can see up to 7,500 stars. Just image how many comets you’ll be able to catch!
Arches National Park
The red rock wonderland of Arches National Park may be gorgeous during the day where you’ll relish in the contrasting colors, landforms and textures of the arches, but the park is also ideal for exploring at night where visitors can catch a glimpse of the Milky Way.
Antelope Island State Park
Only a short distance from Salt Lake City, Antelope Island State Park is close enough for easy access but far enough to escape the bright suburban lights, making it an ideal place to observe the movement of the night sky.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Cedar Breaks National Monument is definitely one of America’s most special parks, sitting at over 10,000 feet above ground and looking down into a half-mile deep geologic amphitheater. This park is great for your meteor viewing adventure too, as it provides you an impressive view of the Milky Way.
For stargazers experiencing cloudy or light-polluted skies, NASA is providing a live broadcast of the Perseid meteor shower via Ustream on August 11-12 and August 12-13, beginning at 8 p.m. MDT.