Grab a long-sleeved T-shirt, a blanket, and find a safe space for at least two hours — preferably starting at midnight. Because Saturday, the night sky is the best time to watch the annual Leonid meteor shower.
If you go outside at 4:49 a.m. Sunday morning, your little white dot will become a multicolored constellation — the Death Star, NGC 1297. You’ll have to set your devices aside from your eyes, or your eyes will constantly forget where the dark began and where it finished. The images will remain in pitch blackness until after you’ve checked Instagram for the next 25 minutes.
With crickets chirping and television’s blasting you in the face as you stand outside, do what your friends did in 2010: You will look straight up.
If you look back at your phone at any point during the night, you’ll never see the stars again. In fact, the sky will likely become an overcast gray.
“That’s not going to bother people,” said Tony Bedalov, vice president of astronomy and spaceflight education at the American Museum of Natural History. “It might bother them if it’s raining. But if it’s snowing, maybe it’s OK.”
Since you’re just leaving your phone on screen, there’s no need to consult the calendar or wonder if you should wake up at a lesser hour. Because if you’re careful, your meteor shower won’t be diminished by the time you get to work or attend an evening performance. You’ll still see your streaks on your phone. But if you’re afraid of rain, getting into your room to wait out a storm is the smart choice.
There are millions of years between you and a morning meteor shower, said Bedalov. “So if you want to spend that time focusing on something that you’re going to enjoy for the next two hours, that’s really an awful time to spend your time.”
Experts suggest looking for a dark sky with a patch of your own yard to frame your view. You can also plug your phone’s GPS into this site to find out if your area is completely clear.
In the event of lightning, they suggest you stay inside, where you’ll have more of a chance to see the moon on its night side. Experts also say to expect to see the public eclipse. You can take yourself outside as much as you want, but just don’t focus on your meteor shower, because your phone will want to refresh all at once.
If you’re worried about head lice, they say, don’t worry, because your neck isn’t about to go bump in the night.