The Perseids promise to be one of the best meteor showers to watch in 2012 from Hawaii for three reasons:  The Perseids are one of the biggest meteor showers of the year.  The moon is almost new (at 18% of peak brightness), and only rises after 2:20 a.m.  The peak of the Perseids falls between 2 and 4:30 a.m. on August 12th in Hawaii, and early mornings are always the best time to watch a meteor shower.
If you manage to find a comfortable and dark spot to watch this meteor shower you’d better bring a long wish-list, because up to 60 shooting stars / hour are expected.
This article is about the 2012 Perseids meteor shower. For up-to-date information read about the 2013 Perseids
If you are planning to watch this years Perseids meteor shower, we recommend that you have a look at our meteor shower guide for viewing tips and meteor background information specifically tuned for Hawaii! You can also have a look here if you want to find out more about stargazing on Hawaii.
The Perseids happen each year as earth passes by a trail of dust, gas and ice left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle. This comet was first documented in 1862, and returns to the sun every 130 years (the next time it will be visible will be in 2122). The earliest recorded sighting of Perseids dates back to 36 AD, when mention was made of “more than 100 meteors” in Chinese annals (source).
The Perseids are also referred to as the “tears of St. Lawrence”, because the festival of this saint is very close (August 10th) to the peak of the Perseids. The story of Laurentius (Lawrence), a Christian deacon, is the following: Laurentius was martyred by the Romans in 258 AD on an iron outdoor stove. It was in the midst of this torture that Laurentius cried out: (source)
I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.
In honor of this history, one very appropriate midnight-snack to take out is the typically Hawaiian “Huli-Huli” (= turn-turn in Hawaiian) Chicken.
When and where can you see the Perseids?
The Perseids are at their most active between 02:00 and 04:30 a.m. Hawaiian time on August 12th, but you may be able to see meteors any time from July 22 – August 21. The radiant (or place where the shooting stars seem to come from) of this meteor shower lies in Perseus, which rises just after midnight over the north-eastern horizon. You can see where to find the radiant at midnight, 02:00 and 04:00 am with the sky charts below.
Because the moon is not very bright and rises only the second part of the night (see the table below), the best viewing is around 01:00 a.m. on August 12th, but if you won’t be able to look for the Perseids on that night, you can also try your luck in the nights after.
On the sky charts below you can see how to find the radiant of the Perseids meteor shower. It is important to know that you can see the Perseids in a large part of the sky (so even at midnight you will be able to see a lot). If you trace back the trail left by any shooting star, you will find it’s radiant. On August 12th, this radiant will be Perseus.
Meteor shower viewing tips
Watching a meteor shower can be very simple: Turn of the lights in your house, sit in your garden with a bottle of wine and a wish-list, and start counting. This is the most popular and easy way to enjoy shooting stars, and should suit most people.
However, meteor showers offer a great excuse for a midnight excursion and if you are willing to invest some time you can have a great (and educational) time with your friends and/or kids.
Darkness is your friend, and you can see most shooting stars in dark places. This means that you have to drive out of the city (preferably to a high place, Waimea or Volcano anyone?) and pack picnic supplies and chairs/blankets for comfortable watching.
Have a look at our meteor shower guide for a pack-list, some “must bring” accessories and meteor shower trivia and background information.
Where will you watch the Perseids meteor shower?
The best places to watch a meteor shower are the ones that have dark skies and little light pollution. Luckily Hawaii is full of such places, and while there are many good places to watch, it is often more fun to watch the meteors together.
Do you know of a great destination with little or no light pollution in your area to view meteor showers? Is there a confirmed meet-up? We’d love to hear about your favorite viewing spot in the comments below!