Perseid Meteor Shower at New Moon

The 2015 Perseid Meteor Shower is expected to be better than its been in years, due to the New Moon on Thursday, August 13, 2015. Perseid Meteor Shower 2015 from CNN

The Perseid Meteor Shower normally peaks the night of August 11-12. A sliver of a waxing crescent Moon that rises late means dark skies for meteor shower observers.

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Meteor Shower best observed by Naked Eye

Unlike almost anything else in astronomy, a meteor shower is best observed without a telescope or binoculars. Telescopes and binoculars increase the resolving power of the human eye, but they do so at a cost: they dramatically narrow the field of view. Meteors shoot across the sky, usually appearing to come from one general area. Meteor showers cover a very wide swath of the sky, and it isn’t possible to move a telescope or binoculars fast enough to track them. Additionally, the narrow field of view means you won’t be able to see most of the meteors that shoot across. The best thing to do: pull up a lawn chair, lay back, and just open your eyes and mind to the heavens.

San Diego Perseid Meteor Shower Viewing Locations

For the best viewing of the Perseid Meteor Shower in San Diego, a trip to East San Diego County is advised. A trip out to Mt. Laguna is one of my favorites. Taking Sunrise Highway north from Highway 8, there is a very large dirt area on the west, or left, side of Sunrise Highway. Because the Perseid Meteor Shower is so popular, you will likely find a number of people gathered there. There are no restroom facilities, so be sure to take a shovel, toilet paper, and food and drink, along with your lawn chair. Although it is summer, nighttime temperatures can get a bit chilly, so take a jacket, too. There are a number of turnouts further up Sunrise Highway, some of which may require a Mt. Laguna Forest Adventure Pass. Be sure to check before going, to ensure you do not get a ticket.

One last word of caution: my extensive experience on Mt. Laguna shows that there is little cell phone coverage there. I have T Mobile, and can only get a signal at the turnout across from the cell phone towers at about mile marker 27. It is on the East side of Sunrise Highway, and you can see the towers atop the peak there. Other people I know have reported intermittent signals with Verizon and ATT on Mt. Laguna, but I cannot vouch for them.

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The Mt. Laguna General Store is all the way up Sunrise Highway, at about mile marker 25, and it closes at 5 pm. The base of Sunrise Highway is mile marker 14, so it is eleven miles to get to the nearest store, which will be closed. There may be an open store in nearby Pine Valley, but I am not for sure. There are also no gas stations on Mt. Laguna. The nearest one I know of is all the way into Julian.

The Perseid Meteor Shower will peak around 2 am the morning of April 12, with meteors appearing to come from the constellation Perseus in the northeast sky, Perseus is right below the big W constellation, called Cassiopeia.

Southern California Perseid Meteor Shower Viewing

Beyond San Diego, there are many dark sky sites in and around Southern California prime for meteor shower observing. Some of these include the Anza Borrego Desert, including Little Blair Valley, Joshua Tree, Mt. Pinos, Campo and Broadway, Borrego Springs, Warner Valley, Menifee, and places along Ortega Highway in South Orange County. 

If you cannot get out that far, or just don’t feel comfortable with it, a nearby park that stays open late can also provide good views. Because of light pollution, you won’t see as many meteors as you would at a dark sky site, but you will see a lot more than you would in light-polluted areas.


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