Outdoors + Nature

Natural Wonders

by Nicola McCormack

California: Perseid Meteor Shower

You'll have to escape big-city light pollution to see the Perseid meteor shower, one of the best viewed from earth, but it'll be worth the journey. These meteors are debris (ice and dust) shed from a comet called the Swift-Tuttle. When the earth passes through the comet's stream, we see this debris in the form of shooting stars. At the peak of the Perseid meteor shower (August 12–14, in 2010), between 60 and 80 meteors shoot overhead per hour. Keep your eyes on the constellation of Perseus after midnight and you might see an "earthgrazer," the term for meteors that skim the atmosphere, giving off a beautiful trail of color that lasts longer than dime-a-dozen shooting stars. A pitch-dark desert, such as in Joshua Tree National Park, is the perfect location to plug in to some Gram Parsons on your iPod, lie back, and watch an out-of-this-world light show.

Where to stay: Pitch a tent at one of Joshua Tree National Park's nine campgrounds (and remember to bring your own water and firewood). Campsites are first-come, first-served June through September.

Next: Catch some rays in Florida >

Photo: Courtesy of Joe Westerberg

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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