The Perseids are one of the most active meteor showers of the year, and 2013 is a great year to try to catch some of its shooting stars. A late moonrise (during daytime at 11:20 am on August 12th) leaves the best time of night to watch a meteor shower (the early morning) very dark.
Don’t miss any of the 2013 astronomical fireworks in the Hawaiian sky and bookmark our Hawaii 2013 Astronomy calendar. We will send you Astronomy Alerts for all future Hawaiian astronomy events if you subscribe to our blog.
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.
When and where can you see the Perseids?
The Perseids are at their most active between midnight and 04:30 a.m. Hawaiian time on August 12th, but you may be able to see meteors any time from July 17 – August 24. The radiant (or place where the shooting stars seem to come from) of this meteor shower lies in the constellation Perseus, which rises just after midnight over the north-eastern horizon. You can see where to find the radiant at different times at night with the sky charts below.
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 in Perseus.
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 from the earth 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.
In Polynesia, Perseus was not commonly recognized as a separate constellation; the only people that named it were the people of the Society Islands, who called it Faa-iti, meaning “Little Valley” (more).
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!