- When's the next meteor shower?—The American Meteor Society keeps a calendar and detailed lists of meteor showers in a given year. They'll tell you how many meteors you can expect to see per hour (they rarely happen all at once) and when the best time might be to head outside and view them.
- Find a dark place to watch the sky—If you're serious about seeing this gorgeous space junk, the International Dark-Sky Association has a tool to help you find designated dark-sky areas close to where you live. It only lists officially recognized spots, but you can still have some luck on your own. Try to find an open space without a lot of trees or buildings blocking the horizon, far away from city lights. If your backyard fits the bill, turn off the lights in your home and embrace the darkness.
- Check the weather—Make sure you don't have a major rainstorm moving in before you head outside. Optimists might decide that it's worth waking up if the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies, but if it's a monsoon outside, stay in and try for another night.
- Moon around—Don't forget to check out where the Moon will be! While lovely, our satellite is a notorious light polluter, and its shine can wash out delicate meteor trails. If the Moon is new or a crescent, you'll likely be ok. If it's full, be sure to look at when it's scheduled to set in your area. Hopefully it will disappear below the horizon before showtime. But even if it doesn't, go outside and take a look. You may not see as many meteors as you would on a moonless night, but there's still a chance.
- Set an alarm—Meteor showers tend to peak after midnight. Unless you're a serious night owl who will be up at 3 a.m. regardless, go to bed as usual and set an alarm for the wee hours. Then wake up, make some coffee or hot cocoa, and drag your sleepy self outside.
- Get comfortable—You're going to be outside for a while, as you'll need to wait for your eyes to adjust and may spend even more time waiting for the shower to hit its peak. Dress for the weather, and bring some blankets to spread on the ground. It's a great vantage point to watch the stars.
- No, really. No lights—Leave your cell phone inside. And if you have to use a flashlight to get to your favorite meteor-watching spot, turn it off as soon as you get settled. The light from your flashlight won't obscure the sky, but it might obscure your vision. You may have to wait 20 to 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust. If you absolutely must use a light, try finding one with a red filter, which doesn't mess with night-vision as much. Your eye has both rods and cones which allow you to see, and rods are more sensitive at night to pick up as much light as possible. But rods aren't as sensitive to red light, making it a better choice for nighttime viewing.
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