Perseids 2019: These Are the Best Places in America to Watch August's Prolific Meteor Shower—According to Science

Researchers have unveiled a light pollution map of the U.S., revealing the locations of some of the few places in the country where you can still find "pristine" skies.

This information—laid out in a study published recently in the Journal of Environmental Management—may be particularly beneficial to skywatchers who want to find the best viewing spots for the spectacular Perseid meteor shower, which is currently in full swing.

According to the study, the pristine skies are mostly found in rural parts of the western U.S. and Alaska, The Washington Post reported. However, some regions in the far north of the country also boast pristine skies—such as parts of Maine, Minnesota and Michigan—in addition to large areas off Hawaii.

The data indicates that the darkest place in America at the county level is the city and borough of Yakutat in Alaska. By contrast, the researchers found that the District of Columbia is the region most affected by light pollution—with almost 200,000 times the artificial brightness of Yakutat.

The Perseid meteor shower occurs annually during the months of July and August. This year, the shower became active on July 17 and it will be visible until August 24, although meteor rates will peak on August 12 or 13.

In ideal viewing conditions, you will usually be able to see between 50 and 75 multicolored meteors every hour during peak times.

Unfortunately, there will be a particularly bright, almost-full moon on the peak dates this year making some of the fainter meteors more difficult to see, according to the American Meteor Society (AMS).

light pollution map
The remaining areas of pristine sky in the contiguous continental United States. Light blue colors mark spots with artificial brightness of up to 1 percent above the natural light. Journal of Environmental Management

For the best viewing, try to go somewhere away from light pollution with favorable weather conditions. Much of the western U.S.—where many areas of pristine skies can be found—will be largely cloud-free on Monday when the shower peaks, as will many parts of the Southern Plains and the Ohio Valley, AccuWeather reported.

On the other hand, those in the north-central U.S. and the southeast may have their viewing obscured by clouds on Monday night. The eastern part of the country may be affected by cloud as well, although there should be enough sky visible to watch the Perseids.

Experts say that viewing the shower in the days leading up to the peak may provide better viewing due to the slightly dimmer moon.

Meteor showers are celestial events in which several meteors can be seen in the night sky appearing to originate from a single point. This happens when the Earth passes through streams of cosmic debris.

In the case of the Perseids, this debris originates from the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle as it speeds path Earth in its orbit of the sun.

"They are called Perseids since the radiant—the area of the sky where the meteors seem to originate—is located near the prominent constellation of Perseus the hero when at maximum activity," a statement from the AMS read.

Meteors, colloquially known as "shooting stars," are the streaks of light we see when small pieces of debris from comets or asteroids enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn up at high speed. Before these small pieces enter the atmosphere, they are known as "meteoroids," according to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

Most of the time meteoroids burn up before they reach the ground, but if one manages to reach the planet's surface it is known as a meteorite.

Perseid meteor shower
View of meteor streaking over Trona Pinnacles near Death Valley, CA during the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, August 2, 2019. Bob Riha Jr.,Getty Images
Perseids 2019: These Are the Best Places in America to Watch August's Prolific Meteor Shower—According to Science | Tech & Science