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  • Sunset at Mojave Desert in Twentynine Palms, CA

Stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park Photo by Jack Fusco

 

It’s that time of year again! The annual Perseids meteor shower will be gracing our desert night skies once again this August in all its out-of-this-world glory. Boasting some of the darkest night skies in southern California and bordering Joshua Tree National Park, an International Dark Sky Park, 29 Palms is the ideal destination for observing the Perseids this summer!

Producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak and known for its massive fireballs which are larger explosions of light and color that last longer than the average meteor streak, the Perseids are a sight to behold and one of the most exciting meteor showers to observe. These fireballs leave “long ‘wakes’ of light and color behind them,” according to NASA. Named after the constellation Perseus, NASA reports the Perseids originate from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862 by astronomers Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle. With the meteors appearing in all parts of the sky, this shower will be easy to witness with the naked eye. Plus, with the waxing crescent moon setting in the early evening, viewers will be left with gorgeous dark skies for what is sure to be an excellent show!

There are a few things you’ll want to bring with you to make your meteor shower watch party a memorable experience, starting with a comfortable chair. A reclining lawn chair would be best as it allows you to sit back, look up, and enjoy the show.

Because it will be a late night, be sure to pack all your favorite late-night snacks and lots of water. We can’t emphasize the importance of water and staying hydrated enough, even for nighttime adventures! It’s easy to underestimate the effects of the summer heat at night and even if you don’t feel thirsty, it’s important to keep your water intake up. A gallon per day/per person is always recommended. It’s also a good idea to have a few extra layers of warm clothing handy as evening temperatures do drop and you’ll want to stay comfortable.

Another key item to have with you is a red flashlight. It is recommended that you do not use bright white flashlights, headlamps, or cell phones when getting ready to stargaze. It takes approximately 20-30 for the human eye to fully adjust to these types of low light conditions. Don’t have red lights? No problem! You can turn any regular flashlight into a red-light flashlight by covering it with red cellophane, tape, paper, fabric, or any other similar materials.

This red flashlight will also help you watch your step while getting settled at your viewing spot, and help you avoid stepping on cacti, desert critters, and uneven surfaces that can be difficult to see at night. Wearing closed-toe shoes is also highly recommended.

Plan on giving yourself at least one hour of viewing time as meteors are known to come in spurts with interspersed lulls. The optimal viewing time for the Perseids meteor shower will be between midnight and dawn, with the peaks expected on the mornings of August 11, 12, 13.

While many focus on this peak time, remember that meteor showers typically last weeks! According to EarthSky.org, the Perseids can be visible for up to 10 or more days following the peak, so if you can’t make it out to 29 Palms between August 11-13, you can certainly still plan a trip shortly after!

One of the common questions we get asked is where the best place to stargaze is, and fortunately, due to the lack of light pollution in our area, the opportunities are endless! Many of the hotels and vacation rentals in our city offer great views of the night sky so it can be as easy as pulling a chair out to the patio or backyard.

Designated as an official International Dark Sky Park in 2017, Joshua Tree National Park is the best (and most popular) place for stargazing in southern California, offering visitors incredible stargazing opportunities year-round. Do expect the park to be busy during the annual Perseid meteor shower and as always, take the time to plan out your visit in advance. With cell reception extremely limited in Joshua Tree National Park it’s important to download the new National Park Service mobile app as it provides the ability to download and save park maps and helpful visitor resources for offline use. Also, remember you can now purchase your park pass online and in advance by visiting www.recreation.gov.

*Please note, if you are planning on watching the Perseids from within Joshua Tree National Park, there is a temporary fire restriction in place, and all fires are banned until further notice. The restrictions include campgrounds, residential areas, and the backcountry, and bans campfires, barbeques, outdoor smoking, and other fire hazards.

Summer is here in the Mojave Desert, and we are ready for all that’s in store. From starry nights to annual meteor showers, make Twentynine Palms your destination for your out-of-this-world adventures this summer!

June gave us some of the most gorgeous evenings for stargazing. We started off with a third quarter moon meaning a new moon was right around the corner. With moonless nights on the horizon, it was the perfect opportunity for us to get out our telescopes and observe some deep sky targets. The day of the new moon also marked the first solar eclipse of 2021. Just days before the Summer Solstice, the moon popped back out after completing its first quarter of its orbit around the Earth on June 17. On June 20, we officially entered summer as the sun reached its northernmost declination for the year resulting in the longest daylight hours of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Shortly after the Summer Solstice, the moon was in full force showing us what its capable of when it reaches its full phase.

July is an exciting month for many different reasons. The kids are still on summer vacation, the weather is perfect for taking a dip in the pool, and the night sky will be lit up twice! While the sky was lit up for the 4th of July festivities, the end of the month will give us a different light show: the Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower! At its peak, this shower can produce up 20 meteors per hour. Even though the nearly full moon will keep us from seeing some of the faintest meteors, we will still get a great glimpse at the shower the night of July 28. To get the best view, it is recommended to watch from a dark location after midnight. Lucky for us, Joshua Tree National Park is an International Dark Sky Park. Grab the family and head on up to the park for a late-night meteor shower watch party.

August will bring another meteor shower for our night sky viewing pleasure. The Perseids Meteor Shower is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. With the waxing crescent moon setting in the early evening, viewers will be left with gorgeous dark skies for what is sure to be an excellent show. For the best viewing experience, be sure to watch from a dark location after midnight. Maybe this time, head out to the Mojave National Preserve or Mojave Trails National Monument to have a quiet, peaceful evening watching one of the best meteor showers of the year. Before heading into September, August will also give us our third full moon of the season, also known as a blue moon.

September brings us to the end of our summer nights in the desert. Before heading into the fall season, we will be graced with our fourth and final full moon of the season. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the September Equinox each year. This year, it will occur on September 20. With the equinox coming in on September 22, it’s time for us to get ready for shorter days and longer nights. Of course, longer nights means more time to gaze up at the beautiful desert night sky. Our summer nights in the desert may be coming to an end, but that does not mean our galactic adventures end with it. Gear up! Grab your blankets and your hot cocoa. Winter is coming.

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