Stand Under a Meteor Shower

Perseid Meteor Shower

Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

This year the Perseid Meteor Shower is best viewed late at night but before midnight on Tuesday night, August 11, 2020. Look toward the east and you should occasionally see a meteor trail in the sky. The rate is expected to be about 50 meteors per hour, but it could be a bit higher. This is a slowly unfolding event that takes patient observing, but you may be rewarded with a bright streak in the sky as a small pebble hits the earth’s atmosphere and burns up.

Just like driving through a snowstorm, the earth’s orbit intersects the debris of comet Swift-Tuttle, a comet with a 133-year orbit traveling through our solar system. The debris is littered throughout the entire orbit, so every year around August 11 the earth goes through the cometary debris of pin-sized grains and small pea-sized pebbles. As the debris hits the earth’s atmosphere, the friction of the air heats and vaporizes the pebbles, resulting in a glowing streak across the sky.

The streaks, known as meteor trails, appear to come from the constellation of Perseus (technically the “radiant point,” the direction of the stream of debris material hitting the earth). At midnight, the constellation of Perseus has just risen above the northeast horizon, but the meteor trails themselves may appear anywhere in the sky. Most will appear in the eastern sky.

Perseid Meteor Shower

Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The usual advice is to watch meteor showers after midnight, giving a better view from the earth’s “front windshield” as it orbits the sun and intersects with the comet debris orbit. But this year there is competition in the sky.

After midnight, as August 12 begins, the last quarter moon rises in the northeast at 12:23 a.m. in the latitude of the Washington, DC area. The fainter Perseid meteor trails will be washed out by the moon’s light.

All things considered, the best time this year to see the Perseid Meteors is August 11 between 11 p.m. and before moonrise at 12:23 a.m. Of course, there will be meteors before and after these times, but the apparent rate of meteors will be less than during the best observing time.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Analemma Society website.

The Park Authority will be offering Perseid Meteor Shower viewing opportunities at Turner Farm Park and the Twin Lakes Golf Course.


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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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