When Are the Perseids 2022 and What Time Is Best to See the Meteor Shower?

The Perseid meteor shower, one of the year's most popular celestial events, is approaching its peak. But when is the best time to watch the event?

The Perseids are popular because they tend to produce high rates of visible meteors, while the fact they occur in the summer usually means there are good viewing conditions for people in the Northern Hemisphere.

"The Perseids are famous for a very good reason: they are spectacular. In the best cases, you can see dozens of them per hour easily with the naked eye—if you are under dark skies," astronomer Gianluca Masi, with the Virtual Telescope Project (VTP), told Newsweek.

"In addition, they happen during some of the hottest summer nights in the Northern Hemisphere, so it is very pleasant to stay up, outdoors, looking at the stars."

This year, the Perseids are active from July 14 to September 1, according to the American Meteor Society (AMS).

The night of peak activity is expected to occur on August 12-13, although at this time, the moon will be so bright, that viewing the shower will be much more difficult than usual.

A meteor shower
Stock image: Illustration of a meteor shower. The Perseids are approaching their peak. iStock

Under normal conditions, observing from an area with clear skies and low light pollution, you might expect to see between 50 and 75 visible Perseid meteors per hour at the shower's peak—or perhaps even more—according to the AMS.

But this year, interference from moonlight means that this number will likely be lower. Masi said that observers might only be able to see 10-15 meteors per hour around the time of the peak this year, based on his experience with previous, similar scenarios.

"Our satellite, with its light, can literally ruin the show. Last year, for example, was superb because the moon was basically new, so it was not visible: we had zero contamination by moonlight," Masi said.

What Is the Best Time to See the Perseids in 2022?

This year, Masi recommends viewing the shower slightly before its peak to avoid moonlight interference. The shower is still relatively active in the few days before the maximum, so the astronomer suggests observing on the night of August 9-10.

On this night, the moon will set about 60 minutes before dawn, leaving a very dark sky at the end of the night, when the radiant of the shower—the point in the sky where the meteors appear to come from—will be at its highest in the sky. These are the "most desirable conditions", according to Masi.

"The morning of August 10 should work fine, even if we will have one hour only of dark sky—it's better than nothing," Masi said.

"Choose a location offering a very large, unobstructed view of the sky, ideally far from city lights. Lie on the ground and look overhead with your very own eyes, providing a panoramic view."

While Perseid meteors will seem to originate from a single point, they can appear anywhere and everywhere in the sky. The best direction to watch is wherever the sky is darkest.

If you are not able to observe the shower on this night, then you should still be able to see some meteors at the peak. Watch just before the break of dawn for your best shot of catching a glimpse.

What Are the Perseids?

Meteor showers are celestial events during which numerous meteors—or "shooting stars"—appear in the night sky, seemingly originating from a single point known as the radiant.

The radiant of the Perseids is located in the constellation Perseus, which is named after a hero in ancient Greek mythology who was the son of Zeus and the mortal Danaë.

Meteors are the streaks of light we see when tiny pieces of space debris—ranging from about the size of a grain of sand to the size of a pea—burn up in the top of the Earth's atmosphere while traveling at high speeds: around 130,000 miles per hour in the case of the Perseids.

The parent body of the meteor shower is the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun every 133 years and has a nucleus measuring 16 miles across.