Coming soon: Perseid meteor shower

  • Article by: LISA MEYERS MCCLINTICK , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 2, 2013 - 1:18 AM

The curtain is opening on the best shooting star show of the year — the annual Perseid meteor shower.


When I look back on when my husband and I were dating, one of our most memorable summer nights was spent beneath shooting stars.

In need of free entertainment when money was tight, we drove out of town until we found a remote country road and necessary darkness. Climbing onto the hood of a 1977 Chevy Malibu, we adjusted our eyes to the skies above.

The Perseid meteor shower that has come every August for thousands of years gave us a spectacle that kept us pointing and nudging each other, “There! Look! There’s another!”

You may be able to see shooting stars as early as this weekend. Known as the Northern Hemisphere’s best meteor shower, the annual event typically stretches across two weeks. Best viewing will be Aug. 10-12 — the ultimate window for making a few wishes or planting a few kisses.

If you’re looking for a family outing and to learn more about night skies, presenters throughout Minnesota’s state park system will be telling stories, finding constellations, offering astronomy advice and looking for summer’s most famous meteors.

“You’ll see anywhere from 50 to 75 shooting stars an hour on a typical year,” says Rochester-based Don Borland, who has done state park astronomy talks for 30 years. “August is always a good time because it’s nice weather, and it doesn’t require any special equipment — just a chair and a dark sky.”

The meteors were named for the Perseus constellation that they seem to line up with each year, but they’re not actually stars, Borland explains. They’re a field of debris that Earth hits annually on its orbit around the sun. The debris was left over from the Swift-Tuttle Comet, discovered in 1862 and seen again in 1992 when it orbited back.

The debris can be as small as a grain of sand or as big as a walnut, barreling through space at 37 miles per second when it hits the atmosphere 75 miles above Earth.

“We’re not seeing the debris — just the gas trail of them burning up in the atmosphere,” says Borland.

You can think of it like a car windshield. You might not see the bugs as you’re zipping down the highway, but if there’s a mayfly hatch you can’t miss the big, messy splatters all across the glass.

Most public state park programs start at 8:30 or 9 p.m. with an introduction to the night skies, followed by going outdoors to look for meteors or using a telescope to check out the waxing crescent moon, which will be near Saturn.

Borland jokes about “meteor whiplash” as groups point out shooting stars. On his best night — which had at least two people confirming each of the 200 falling stars in one hour — there was one five-minute gap with no sightings.

“You just have to be patient,” he says. “Just keep looking up. You never know when you’ll see them.”

The best viewing usually runs from midnight to dawn. If you can’t stay up that late or you miss the peak nights, give yourself time to admire the sky anyway.

To know if you have a dark enough sky away from city lights, Borland says his rule of thumb is being able to spot all seven stars in the Little Dipper constellation. If you need help knowing what to look for, check out the free software at

Most state parks are remote enough for viewing, with stargazing being the perfect complement to camping, adds Kacie Carlson, naturalist at Wild River State Park. Families love the magical fringe benefits such as watching for fireflies, and hearing the hoots of owls and chirps of night creatures.

“It’s a different world after dark,” she says. “You may go out for the stars, but be treated to so much more.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


San Francisco 2 Top 5th Inning
Kansas City 2
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Houston 90 FINAL
Orlando 89
Brooklyn 84 4th Qtr 1:23
Boston 95
Washington 86 4th Qtr 4:22
New York 89
Cleveland 58 3rd Qtr 5:33
Memphis 59
Minnesota 65 3rd Qtr 5:27
Milwaukee 54
Atlanta 53 3rd Qtr
San Antonio 48
Portland 9:00 PM
LA Lakers
Phoenix 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Toronto 0 Postponed
Ottawa 0
Philadelphia 2 2nd Prd :38
Pittsburgh 2
Washington 8:30 PM
Buffalo 9:30 PM
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Chivas USA 0 1st Half 44:55
Real Salt Lake 0
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question