If you’ve ever been tempted to travel to Iceland to see the northern lights, or to Chile’s San Pedro de Atacama Desert to witness the Milky Way, consider planning a jaunt for another of the most stunning aerial shows.
Each August, the Northern Hemisphere is illuminated with the Perseid meteor shower, a stunning clash of the elements, appearing as Mother Nature’s annual fireworks show.
The Perseids are a collection of meteors that appear to come from the same direction at the same speed, traveling at a rate of 132,000 miles per hour. They’re some of the fastest meteors in the universe and the oldest, too, with first records of them dating back 2,000 years.
The Perseid meteors are caused by Earth colliding into a stream of debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle, and the meteors visible this August come from the parent comet hundreds – if not thousands – of years ago.
“When the comet travels near the sun it heats up and releases gas and small particles of comet,” said NASA’s meteor expert Bill Cooke. “Every August, the Earth passes through trails of the comet - that's when we see the Perseid meteor shower. These meteoroids burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, creating the streaks of light we call meteors.”
The meteor shower can last anywhere from several hours to a few weeks, explains Cooke. In 2017, the Perseids are most active from the end of July to the end of August, and this year’s expected peak is August 12.
“You can see the Perseid meteor shower best in the Northern Hemisphere and down to the mid-southern latitudes,” said Jim Zimbelman, a geologist at the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. “All you need to catch the show is darkness, somewhere comfortable to sit, and a bit of patience.”
Due to the Perseids consistency, it’s easy to plan a trip around this phenomenon, explains Zimbelman: “You need to be 20 miles from the nearest town or city, and during the best conditions, you can see up to 60 meteor flashes in one hour.”
Although there’s no need to travel far to see the Perseid meteor shower, there are spectacular experiences around the globe that make watching the skyward show even more special. With this year’s waning gibbous moon in full effect on August 12, the Perseids may be less visible, making it even more important to watch from a darker and more remote location to see the bright meteors and fireballs flash through the sky.
Here are three spectacular trips in the world’s leading observatories to experience the Perseids this August.
From the Sky Gate Observatory in Jordan’s Wadi Rum
If you thought a trip to Jordan’s Wadi Rum couldn’t get any better, it does on this 8-day trip with Peregrine Adventures. From August 10-17, discover the towering, wind-carved formations of the Wadi Rum and the Al-Khazneh temple hidden in Petra’s canyon walls, staying each evening in a traditional Bedouin camp to view the stars at their brightest, unabated from artificial or natural light.
Just before the Perseids meteor shower begins, enter Jordan’s Sky Gate Observatory, a Bedouin-run scientific, cultural, and tourism development project opened in 2013. Delightfully remote and harboring a dark, open sky, learn the wonders of the constellations that once ruled traditional Arabic culture, as the stars were used to navigate through from the desert to the sea. Enjoy learning from an astrology expert just before the meteors shine their brightest on August 12.
From the Silo Observatory at Primland in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains
Nestled in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains with 12,000 acres of land at bay, Primland is the perfect stateside locale to view the Perseid meteor shower. Located in an area where no artificial or natural light obstructs the dark sky, the lodge was built with astrological enthusiasts in mind, as it houses a silo-shaped observatory complete with a high-powered telescope for guests to tour the universe on a nightly basis.
On August 12, guests of Primland can join the lodge’s expert guides to explore the sky, gazing at constellations and planets before witnessing the Perseid meteor shower in action as the meteoroids burn and streak the sky in a flash of light. When you’re not busy in the observatory, roam the land for an adventure, whether hiking portions of the restored Old Appalachian Trail or fly fishing in surrounding lakes.
From the Astronomical Observatory at Six Senses Con Dao in Vietnam
This August, experience celestial wonders from the property’s own private astronomical observatory, where a telescope makes even the furthest celestial occurrences visible, highlighting Saturn, Venus, Jupiter, and even the Moon’s surface. On the evening of August 12, visit the observatory with a cocktail in tow; enjoy the Perseids as they crash and burn in the Earth’s atmosphere