The Perseids meteor shower is an annual highlight for astronomers and stargazing enthusiasts alike. If you look to the sky tonight, you could see 100 meteors per hour. Some will be faint streaks that you could miss if you blink, while others will burn across the sky with hints of bright greens and blues that might leave a lasting streak in your eyes–the latter are my favorite to witness. While the meteor shower peaks at about 3:00 a.m., you’ll still be able to catch an impressive view earlier in the evening. This year should be especially impressive because we won’t have a full moon like we did last year.
As with any meteor shower, the best place to view is away from city lights. If you live in the city, you’ll still be able to see a few, but only the biggest and brightest of meteors, which are much less frequent. Those willing to drive 30-45 minutes away from the city will get the best show. If you already live beyond the outer ring of Minneapolis suburbs, then you’re lucky enough to stay put and get comfortable in your backyard.
Here are a few options to view the show tonight.
Afton State Park: This is my go-to spot for meteor showers. From Minneapolis, you’ll drive about 40 minutes southeast. Afton has a wonderful mix of forest and prairie. The gate will be open. Drive the winding road to the group picnic area and make yourself comfortable in the grass. Bonus points if you’re willing to spend the night in the campground.
Whitetail Woods Regional Park: Dakota County’s newest regional park lies on the border of Rosemount and Farmington. You can get there in about 30 minutes from Minneapolis. I like this park because it has lots of open space away from trees. Follow the road into the park to the large parking lot near the welcome center. You’ll see ample viewing spots on the hillsides above and below the lot.
Carver Park Reserve: You’ll find this park on the southwest side of Lake Minnetonka, not to be confused with the park of a similar name in Woodbury. Carver Park Reserve is a favorite bike camping spot of mine, about 30 miles west. To get there by bike, take the Greenway to Hopkins, then hop on the Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail. Aside from a couple blocks in Hopkins, you won’t need to leave the bike trail en route to the park. Like Afton, this park has a great mix of hardwood trees and prairie. You’ll enjoy this spot.
William O’Brien State Park: This is your best option northeast of Minneapolis if you don’t feel like driving much. 45 minutes in the car will get you here. You’ll find a large open area to the south of the welcome center that is prime for astral viewing. Get ready for loads of fireflies to complement the sky show.
When you head out, whether by bike or car, bring along a blanket, bug spray, headlamp with a red setting and some snacks and beverages. If you’re especially ambitious, you’d be able to to find openings to camp at any of these parks to sleep under the shooting stars. With camping in mind, be courteous to those who will be spending the night and try to find a viewing spot away from tents.
Have fun tonight. Your sore neck and tired eyes tomorrow will be worth it. I promise.