Will the Perseid shower be visible from {insert your location}?


I am asked this question over and over again, and it’s a good one. Everyone knows that you have to be in the right place to observe solar eclipses and other astronomical goings-on, so why should meteor showers be any different?

You do have to be in the right part of the planet to view meteor outbursts or storms, because the trails of comet debris are so narrow (hundreds of thousands of miles) that it only takes a few hours for the Earth to pass through the stream. A few hours is not enough time for the Earth to do a complete rotation (which takes 24 hours), so only those people located in areas where it is night and where the radiant is visible will be able to see the outburst or storm. These dramatic events require the viewers to be in the right ranges of both latitude AND longitude.

This is not true for normal meteor showers, like this year’s Perseids. The main stream of particles extends for millions of miles along Earth’s orbit, requiring days for it to cross. All we need is one day to take the longitude out of the visibility calculations, because then the entire planet will experience night while the shower is still going on. That’s the good news.

The kicker is that we not only have to have darkness, but also the radiant — in this case, located in the constellation of Perseus — has to be visible, i.e. above the horizon. The elevation of the radiant depends in part on latitude of the observer, and one can derive — or look up, in this age of Google — a relatively simple equation that gives the maximum elevation of the radiant:

maximum elevation = 90 – |dec -lat|

where dec is the declination of the radiant and lat is latitude of the observer (all in degrees). The vertical lines before dec and after lat mean to take the absolute value of dec — lat.  In order to see meteors from the shower, the maximum elevation must be 0 or greater (preferably more than 15 degrees). In the case of the Perseids, dec = 58 deg, so it is easy to calculate the maximum elevation for various latitudes:

 

We see that everyone in the northern hemisphere has a shot at seeing Perseids (weather permitting), but folks south of -32 degrees latitude get the shaft.

 

On the world map above, the red shaded area is the region where the Perseids will not be visible. If you live south of Brazil, at the very southern tip of Africa, or southern Austrailia, you need to take a road trip to the North if you wish to see Perseids. If you want see decent numbers, it will be a long ride, as you need to trek to somewhere above  -17 degrees latitude.

So will I see Perseids? You can find out on your own — look up your latitude (remember, Google is your friend), use the equation above, stick in 58 degrees for the dec, and calculate the maximum elevation. If it is above 15 degrees, you are good.

Remember to get away from city lights. A dark sky is important.

Enjoy the show!

82 thoughts on “Will the Perseid shower be visible from {insert your location}?”

  1. You mentioned the Earth only takes a few hours to move through the trail of debris. Which few hours (in GMT) are expected for this shower?

  2. ok, not being a whiz at this calculation….. we are at 50.19058N and 104.90445W will we see them if it is clear tonight? heres to hoping that we will…we missed the northern lights because of cloud cover….but we see them often here anyway…Jeanne Perkin

  3. This is fine4. It still doesn’t tell me what direction to be looking where I’ll see the most meteors.
    Dan in Florida.

  4. Not only will we not be able to see it but now people think we live in aus trail ila 🙁 correct spelling from the original term terra australis is Australia, 🙂 by the way I love 99.9% of NASA’s work including the multitude of very intelligent people working there. Not to mention many of the wonderful and valuable things I have learnt from your website. Keep up the good work and thankyou for your inventions, especially battery powered tools 🙂 and your invaluable contributions to our scientific knowledge of the world/universe around us.

  5. I don’t know exactly what this article meant when it said “it only takes a few hours for the Earth to pass through the stream,” but it certainly doesn’t mean that the meteor shower only lasts for a few hours each year. The Perseids meteor shower lasts for over a month, starting in mid-July and reaching its peak on the night of August 12 and the morning of August 13, which means tonight (August 12) is the best night to go outside and look for meteors. There will still be meteors visible after tonight, but if you want to see the most, go somewhere away from city lights and watch sometime after midnight – after 2 AM would probably be the best time.

  6. Boston, MA is supposed to be cloudy tonight… do you think that we’ll still get a good show if we find a nice meadow tomorrow night?

  7. Omg im 13 Year’s old and there’s people on here asking if they can see the meteor shower ?!
    Wooow… I just typed my county and looked at the Equasion and BAM !
    Easy as that, seriously people you don’t have too be a Genius too work that out -_-

  8. Meteors burn up high in the sky. If I see a meteor directly overhead, how far away will someone else be able to see it from?

  9. The shower may start at 10pm but will be most visible from 3-4am.
    The UK will most likely be able to see it.
    And yes, 50 N should be able to see it as well.

  10. Will I be able to view the meteor shower from the west coast(USA)? And if so, what local time should I look for it? Thanks!

  11. Hello! Thank you very much about this information. I am a meteorologist to be so I am so happy to have all of you doing this stuff to make “fans” understand in a better way the space…

  12. Sitting in an open field in Lake Co. FL, and there is not much going on here except stars and plaines.

  13. My little bro and I live in the bahamas we are so excited we are staying up to watch the show.Can’t wait!!!!
    Can u guys send me some pics from space I want to learn some more

  14. Will the Perseids be visible at Frankfort, Michigan? What time of noght will they be most visible. which direction should I look?
    Also, family in Jacksonville, FL are attempting to see also. Will they be able to? What direction should they look?

  15. Look at the map.
    If you are not in the red, then you have a chance to see it.
    If you really want to get crazy, then you can use the equation.
    In conclusion, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, you’re cool.

  16. Thank you for a nice and informative article. I live in the northern part of Norway. Up here (Lat 69 degree) it is no chance to see the meteors. It is simply not dark enough at midnight.

    Respectfully Yours
    Even A. Bjørsmo

  17. Saw one in the South-Eastern skies of Colorado. Otherwise there is just tons of stars that are flickering, it is so stunning. Is that normal, for stars to flicker like that when a shower is supposed to be occurring?

  18. Hello, i live in Miami, Fl. I went down to Key West Fl. and i must say i have experienced one of the joy mother earth gives us.. if i may, i saw this huge white light descending from the sky i best can describe it this way it had kinda of a ball type of looking beginning and it had like a narrow ending at the end, this wht i call shooting star lingered for about 2 seconds.

  19. if im in the south california district should i be facing west, east, north, or south to see the shower?

  20. if i did not see the meteor shower on thursday 12th of august will i be able to see it on 13th of august at night this year? will i be able to see it if i am in france? when is the next perseids meteor shower?

    Thanks. please write back.

  21. H. I live in tennessee and from about 1145 till about 1245, i was looking at a mostly clear sky to the northeast in pure darkness no city lights or anything and seen nothing but a few stars and i did notice jupitor. Why was i not able to see the meteor shower? I have never seen one in my 31 years on this great planet and i was hoping that this would be the best year to.

  22. to the 13 year old..i’m 31 and have never seen one. i live far away from the city way out in the country absolutely no street lights. I don’t knwo how to use the formula and I just finished astronomy class. to the owner of this blog. I live in cleveland tennessee, so what time woudl be best for viewing?

  23. Was up for 3 hours hunting for Perseids in the SF Bay Area. Only say 7-8 in the 3 hours from 12:30am-3:30am. so disappointing. Perhaps not dark enough? I drove up in the hills along 280, but perhaps still not dark enough.

    Whatever it was, it was NOT impressive.

  24. Thanks for that awesome article, it was honestly one of the best I’ve read in a long time! Google is my friend.

  25. I live in Phoenix and at approximately 2:52 a.m. I saw a giant meteor in the northeastern sky. MORE than 2 seconds long. Amazing. Phenomenal. Wondering about about the giant meteor the size of Texas that missed the Earth. By 2,000 miles a while ago. Any idea if it could swing back around?
    .

  26. Ahhhhhhhhh, I saw it on August 8th. But I just saw 1 and it was frighteningly beautiful. I did not expect to see, so it was a surprise!

    Oh, I will look to the sky all night!

    CARPE NOCTUM!

  27. at what time can i see the meteor shower tonight november 17 2010 inkissimmee fl??? please i want to see it =)

  28. Now that the manned missions are winding down it is good to see that we maintain interest in the unmanned missions and the land based observations of cometary, stellar and other phenomena. There is nothing worse then closing our minds. or or

  29. hoi, Mr. Bill:
    is it possible to see the perseids from The Netherlands? and at what time would it be…now its 20:52pm and if i can see this on the computer if not possible in the sky itself?? 😀

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP!

    Daniella

  30. It’s Friday Night (10:30 CMT) here in South Texas U.S.A., When is the best time for me to see the Perseids meteor shower?

  31. Hello NASA friends! We are planning to watch the event in Santo Domingo and La Romana, Dominican Republic, all the GLOBE schools are informed. As a member of the Education Advisory Committee of NASA´s GLOBE Program we also informed all the GLOBE schools around the world so they can see the event too. I read about an application for the cell phone to count the stars. Can you send me the link so I can share it with our GLOBE schools.
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful event!

  32. do you have where we can watch on here, went out its awesome too see such amazing things, but I have children stayed out as long as i could. where can i see it online!

  33. Hello,
    Last night at around 11pm near Manchester, England I saw a fair bit of the Perseid meteor shower. So stunning to watch.
    However, there was a time where the sky appeared to flash, probably every few minutes. I was wondering if this was something to do with the shower? I have conversed with a few friends today and they have confirmed they saw it too. Some live up to 200 miles away. It did not cover the sky and lasted for a few seconds.
    Just really interested to know,
    Thanks
    Clare x

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