How to Watch Meteor Showers

Necessary Equipment

The beauty of observing meteors is that it is the one branch of astronomy that requires virtually no equipment, or at least no expensive optical equipment. The optical equipment you will use are your eyes and the only other equipment you really need is a reclining chair. You might also consider a pillow for that chair. For those people who wear glasses, because of nearsightedness and astigmatism, I will add that you will generally see fewer meteors than people with normal eyesight. Eventually you might want to correct this to enhance your viewing. I personally suffer from astigmatism, but have obtained a special pair of glasses with larger than normal lenses that I wear only when observing meteors. I look pretty goofy in the glasses, but, hey, it's dark and no one else is going to see me. These glasses make the stars nearly perfect pinpoints of light and I can quickly and easily spot even faint meteors when they appear.

Finding Your Comfort Level

As you prepare for your meteor observing session, it is extremely important to get comfortable--not just for the moment, but for the entire duration of time you wish to observe. Some observers will spend several hours outside and I have personally spent five or more hours observing in mid-August and in mid-November. For Northern Hemisphere observers, you know you will get cold or at least chilly in November, but it is surprising how chilly it can be in mid-August. There have been years when I went inside and grabbed my winter coat for August observing. The reason for this is simple. You are basically lying still in your reclining chair, which causes your metabolic rate to decrease, which results in less body heat being emitted. Add to this the fact that dew is very common during summer nights. The overall result is you can very easily be lying around in wet clothes. The best recommendations are a blanket or maybe even a piece of plastic over the lower half of your body. I personally like the space blankets. These are a thin, laminated, plastic film with a metallic coating, which can conserve up to 80% of your body heat. So they do not let the dew through to your clothing and they keep you warm. You can find these online at numerous stores on the internet and they usually cost around $5. They are reusable and durable. I bought four nearly ten years ago and have typically used only one throughout that time.