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Updated: November 20, 2021


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Stargazing on Cape Cod
Meteor Showers, Star Parties & More

When meteor showers light up the night sky over Cape Cod, it's an amazing sight to see! 

Meteor with a long blue, pink and white tail, shooting across the night skyColorful Meteor Trail in the Clear Night Sky

There's no better time for sky-gazing than those few nights a year when meteors ("shooting stars") are showering.

When to Watch for Meteors
2021-22

December 13-14, 2021 - The Geminids

This is usually one of the best meteor showers of the year with the brightest Geminids sometimes showing colors of blue, yellow or green.

For most of the night, viewing will be a challenge thanks to a bright moon that won't set until a few hours before dawn. But if you happen to be outdoors on the night of December 13-14 (especially in the pre-dawn hours), it's definitely worth looking to the sky to see if you can spot some Geminids!  

  • Best Viewing Time: Late night on December 13th to pre-dawn on Dec. 14

  • Average Rate in Dark Skies: 75-100+ per hour

January 3-4, 2022 - The Quadrantids

Yes, this is a chilly one! So bundle up and grab a thermos of hot cocoa to take with you if you're going out on meteor watch.

The moon won't hinder viewing this year. So if Mom Nature gives us a cloudless night, we might be able to see big, bright fireballs streaking across the sky.

  • Best Viewing Time: From about 2 a.m. to just before dawn on January 4th

  • Average Rate in Dark Skies: 40+ meteors per hour

Did You Know?

No matter where you are on Earth, you can watch the International Space Station (ISS) pass overhead. Telescope not required!

Click here to find viewing times near you 

April 22-23, 2022 - The Lyrids

 The Lyrids are somewhat unpredictable. Normally, the Lyrid meteor showers only produce a few visible meteors per hour. But on a good year, the rate might rise to 100+ per hour.

For this year's sky show, the moon will only pose a little interference. If you can roust yourself from bed at that hour, head out for excellent viewing in a (hopefully!) cloud-free sky.

  • Best Viewing Time: The hours just before dawn on April 23rd

  • Average Rate in Dark Skies: 10-20 per hour

August 12-13, 2022 - The Perseids

This is one of the best known, most-watched meteor showers of all ... and my personal favorite for a couple reasons.

First, the Persieds reliably produce some awesome meteor sightings year after year.

Second, and maybe most importantly - it's warm here in August. It's a wonderful time to be outdoors gazing up at the stars!

On peak night for the Perseids in 2022, the moon will be full, making it tough to see all but the biggest, brightest meteors.

  • Best Viewing Time: From around 10 p.m. on Aug. 12th into the pre-dawn hours on Aug. 13th

  • Average Rate in Dark Skies: 80+ per hour

October 7, 2022 - The Draconids

The Draconids (a/k/a "Giacobinids") meteor shower is usually a pretty sparse event with only a few sightings each hour. But on rare occasion, it produces a magnificent display.

The Draconids are mostly seen in the evening hours shortly after dark, so there's no need to get up in the middle of the night to see them. The quarter moon will obscure the more faint meteors this year. But who knows, we might see some good ones anyway!  

  • Best Viewing Times: Nightfall into early evening

  • Average Rate in Dark Skies: Usually just a few per hour, but on an exceptional year it could be hundreds per hour.

October 21-22, 2022 - The Orionids

With only a few sightings an hour, this is one of the annual sky events that I don't bother setting my alarm clock for.

This year, the moon will be just a skinny little sliver in the sky. So if you're going to be awake before dawn anyway, it can't hurt to take a peek outside. Who knows? You might be lucky enough to see an Orionid fireball or two. 

  • Best Viewing Time: The hours just before dawn on October 22nd

  • Average Rate in Dark Skies: 10-20 per hour

November 17-18, 2022 - The Leonids

In 2001 the Leonids produced the most breathtaking display I've ever seen!

At one point during the night, almost everyone in our neighborhood was on the beach, braving unseasonably cold conditions, watching hundreds of shooting stars flashing through the sky.

That's a rare occurrence, though. The Leonids usually put on a much more subdued performance.  

Unfortunately, in 2022 the moon will be a hindrance to viewing most of the night, finally setting just before sunrise. If you're an early riser, it's worth taking a pre-dawn peek for some  breathtaking meteors.

  • Best Viewing Times: Pre-dawn on November 18th

  • Average Rate in Dark Skies: 10-20 per hour

Where to Watch & What to Bring With You

Where to Watch

The best viewing spots are as far away as you can get from bright lights.

On Cape Cod, that means almost anywhere is good ... except the more commercial areas of Falmouth, Hyannis, Orleans and Provincetown.

My recommendation? Scout out a few possible viewing locations the night before the shower so you'll know where it's darkest.

Meteor Shower Lodging

Want to see the stars shooting over the ocean? Consider staying somewhere on the waterfront:

What To Bring With You

Here's my "must-have" short list:

  • Warm clothes. It gets chilly at night when you're near the water, even in the middle of summer.

  • A beach blanket, inflatable raft or air mattress. For the most comfortable viewing, you'll want to lie flat on your back -- or as stretched out as possible. (Ignore this advice at your own risk. Many a stiff neck has come from watching the sky while standing or sitting upright, head tilted back. I learned this lesson the hard way.)

  • A flashlight. If you've picked the right place, you'll be totally in the dark until your eyes adjust. Bring a flashlight - with fully charged batteries - so you can see where you're going.

  • Bug repellant. On warm summer nights it gets a little "buggy" on the beach. So if you're going out to watch the Perseid meteor shower in mid-August, don't forget your bug repellant. Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

  • Snacks and drinks. No, not alcoholic beverages. Those aren't allowed on our public beaches ... and it's against the law to drink and drive, anyway. But do bring some snacks and other beverages. And please, dispose of your trash properly. Help us keep our beaches beautiful!

More Stargazing on Cape Cod

Thursday nights in the warm-weather months (weather permitting), Cape Cod Astronomical Society hosts a "Star Party" at Dennis-Yarmouth High School in South Yarmouth... home of the Werner-Schmidt Observatory.

Local astronomers set up telescopes and invite visitors to gaze through the lens. These friendly, knowledgeable folks are happy to share their wealth of knowledge about the stars, the planets, and pretty much anything else you'd like to know about the night sky.

The Star Parties are open to the public, free of charge.

*FYI: CCAS holds Star Parties in the off-season, too. 

For Star Party details and schedule, visit Cape Cod Astronomical Society's website.

 


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