The Perseids meteor shower is here and so are more telescopes

Look up.
Look up.
Image: REUTERS/Amir Cohen
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The Perseids meteor shower can be viewed until Aug. 24, with peak times this week. No special equipment is needed to view the shower, just find a dark area with wide-open sky. The best time to see it is predawn when there is little moonlight to interfere with the show. The meteors may come in spurts so give at least one hour between midnight and dawn to view them.

The popularity of telescopes during the pandemic

Along with interest in Perseids, stargazing in general has become more popular during the pandemic. The top importers of telescopes have increased their volumes since the pandemic began, most notably in the US. With the popularity of sky gazing and the closure of observatories and planetariums, telescopes have been in short supply. And with private companies launching tourists into space, there is reason to be interested in the galaxy and its contents more than ever before.

Norbert Vance, a professor at Eastern Michigan University and director of the Sherzer Observatory told NPR that sky gazing has become popular during the pandemic because it is a safe and socially distanced activity. It joins other pandemic trends towards other more popular outdoor activities, such as visiting national parks and birding.

Where are the dark skies?

NASA created light maps that can be used to find where the skies are darkest on Earth. As it would seem, urban areas have more light pollution making it harder to see stars in the sky. More rural areas have darker skies and better conditions for sky gazing.

A light map created by NASA shows where the night sky is darkest in rural areas.
Image: NASA