In the Adirondacks, darkness is not something to be feared, but rather welcomed. When the sun sets over the mountains, a new world awakens and the night's main attraction begins – the stars!
In the Adirondacks, where vast swaths of wild land separate small villages, darkness is not something to be feared, but rather welcomed. When the sun sets over the mountains, a new world awakens. Nocturnal animals emerge from their dens, the sound of peepers fills the air, and the night's main attraction begins – the stars!
Adirondack night skies are breathtaking. Because there is so little light pollution, you are able to see many more stars than you ever can in densely populated places. At first, it's almost overwhelming – there are just so many! But, once you stretch out on a blanket or the hood of your car and take a moment to appreciate the scene, it becomes as exciting as it is mystifying. Imagine seeing every constellation the season has to offer, and even the totally transfixing Milky Way. It's a view that captivates stargazers and astrophotographers year round. There are a few times, though, when the stunning display gets even more impressive.
Thanks to the region's abundant dark skies, the Adirondacks is the place to be to experience incredible meteor showers. For those who aren't familiar with meteor showers, they are a celestial event where a large number of meteors, or "shooting stars," appear to originate from a certain area of the sky. These meteors are actually large collections of space debris that the earth passes through once a year when it reaches a specific point in its orbit. On a clear night at the peak of a meteor shower, stargazers can expect to see dozens of shooting stars, if not more. That's a lot of wishes!
There are several meteor showers visible in northeastern skies throughout the year, some stronger than others. To be sure you don't miss the chance to witness a meteor shower beneath the pitch black skies of the Adirondacks, mark your calendars for the following meteor showers.
The Lyrids are considered a medium strength shower. While you're not likely to see the iconic shooting stars with the long trains, this meteor shower can produce fireballs, an extra bright variety of meteor. The Lyrids are generally visible from April 16 to 28, with peak dates falling around April 21 and 22. It will be difficult to see the Lyrids this year as they fall at a time when the moon is almost full.
The alpha Capricornids are active in the middle of summer, from July 3 to August 15. While there is no significant peak as with other showers, your best chances of seeing a meteor are in the final days of the display. In general, the meteors from this shower are not very strong, and there are not as many per hour as seen during other showers. However, many of the meteors that are visible are of the stunning fireball variety.
The Perseids is the most popular and notable meteor shower seen from the Adirondacks. Visible from July 17 to August 26, they generally reach their peak on the warm winter nights of August 12 and 13. In the Adirondacks, where darkness provides a clear view of the night sky, it is not abnormal to see as many as 50 or 75 shooting stars per hour on peak nights! For the best views, direct your gaze toward the constellation that this shower is named for – Perseus. While the moon is liable to be bright during the height of this year's Perseids display, this shower is so strong you may still see meteors despite the light from the moon. For the best views, head outside in the early hours before dawn.
The Orionids is a somewhat unpredictable meteor shower. Active from October 2 to November 7, the strength of this shower varies year to year. Usually considered a medium strength shower, it has seen years of high activity that were almost on par with the Perseids. Turn your attention to the night sky on October 21 and 22 to see how the Orionids perform this year.
What could possibly be more impressive that a meteor shower? A meteor storm! The Leonids have produced these outbursts of meteor activity several times over the years. Unfortunately, scientists don't anticipate another Leonids storm until 2099, and very weak activity from now until 2030. If you feel lucky, check for activity at the peak of the Leonids, on November 16 and 17.
December's Geminids are the super stars of the meteor shower game. Visible in winter's cold night skies from December 4 to 17, the Geminids are known for bright and intensely colored shooting stars. While you will need to brave the cold to see these meteors, they are one of the only displays with decent activity prior to midnight. Direct your gaze on the nights of December 13 and 14 toward the constellation of Gemini for best results.
Right after the Geminids, look for the lesser-known Ursids. Generally visible during early morning hours on December 21 and 22, you might just see a shooting star during your dark morning commute.
While the Quadrantids have good potential as far as celestial activity, they are hard to see due to a short nightly activity period and frequent cloudy or snowy weather during peak days, which fall on January 3 and 4.
There is something truly special about Adirondack meteor showers. Against the shadows of towering mountains and elegant pines, the bright white shooting stars stand out in magnificent contrast. Bring your family and stretch out on the ground or open the sun roof to share an experience your children will never forget. Gather your friends and loved ones and enjoy a shooting star party in warm summer months. Or, venture to a mountaintop or remote Adirondack lake to take it all in alone, enveloped in the peace and quiet of the wilderness. However you choose to view these Adirondack meteor showers, join the ranks of ogling spectators and photographers who now look forward to a dark sky.
• Find someplace dark, away from house lights or the lights of town
• Choose a wide open spot without trees or buildings that block your view
• Take a break from technology. The longer you go without looking at your phone, the more your eyes will adjust to the darkness, making it easier for you to pick out shooting stars
• Get comfortable. Lie back so as to avoid straining your neck
• Orient yourself facing in the direction from where the shower originates
• Set a reminder or alarm. Sometimes, the best time to see meteors is when you would otherwise be asleep. Take a snooze and then wake up and head outdoors during peak hours