The Perseid Meteor Shower: Sky Watching in the California Desert

Last summer, a few friends and I journeyed out to the Red Rock Canyon State Park (AKA the middle of nowhere) to watch the Perseid meteor shower. It had been on my to-do, bucket/f**k it list for years, ever since I heard a guy describe his own experience desert camping under a meteor-filled sky with such enthusiasm I thought, “ah man, that sounds amazing – I’m totally doing that next year.” “Next year” took a couple of years longer to arrive than I expected, mostly due to the fact that it’s difficult to talk people into desert camping in the perpetual heatwave that is SoCal August, but I finally made it and it was, in a word, amazing.

The timing of our trip proved perfect: a new moon had just passed, which provided a dark, moonless sky ideal for stargazing. Due to all of the wildfires engulfing the West coast going off at that time, we did wonder if the smoke pollution would mess with our views, but we didn’t have to worry about it – the setting sun took any lingering haze down with it. It also lowered some of the day’s heat, which was a relief considering the desert’s triple digit temps.

Once the sun went down, it look awhile for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, but once they did I was in awe of everything I saw dancing across the black sky. One by one, stars popped to attention, shimmering into focus. Mars appeared, his blood red orb expanding with pulsating heat. Saturn’s glittery orange flickered into view. Finally, shooting stars and lunging meteors joined the show, racing across the desert with such a ferocious speed that my wishes couldn’t keep up with them.

It was the best show I have ever attended, all free of charge and courtesy of Mother Nature. For those of you who haven’t experienced it, I highly recommend catching this year’s display – I know I’ll be there, with sunscreen, bug spray, ice packs, and water jugs in tow.

Until next time, stay gold and keep fightin’ the good fight,

Natasha

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