Vermont State Parks Night Sky Watch Part 1: The Perseid Meteor Shower

Starry Night at Maidstone State Park 
If you pay attention to science or astronomy news, you are probably already looking forward to the annual Perseid meteor shower, which will peak on the night of August 11th (Thursday night.) Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere even have a good chance of seeing more meteors than average. This is a great chance to get outside at night and practice your stargazing skills, no telescope required! (In fact, a telescope isn’t recommended for watching a meteor shower, since the goal is to view as much sky as possible, not a close-up of any particular object.)

Meteor activity will peak on Thursday night, August 11th, though it is always unpredictable, and you will still have a chance to see meteors on the nights before and after. Experts recommend finding a spot away from the bright lights of cities and towns.. (like a park, perhaps?)
Sterling Pond by Smuggers' Notch State Park 

The instruction guide for viewing the Perseids is simple: go outside sometime before midnight, and stay outside as long as possible. Normally we would expect to see a meteor once every minute or so, but NASA estimates that we may see more than twice that average this year.

For those curious: a meteor shower is caused when the Earth, as it orbits the sun, crosses paths with the debris of a comet as it orbits the sun. this case, the comet is the comet Swift-Tuttle, which makes a full orbit of the sun about once every 133 years. When Swift-Tuttle gets close to the sun, some of its’ rocky surface shears off, and some of the ice melts and turns to gasses, leaving a tail behind. When our Earth passes through this debris trail, the result is the meteor shower that we see in the sky.

Here are a few suggestions for parks that are ideal to camp and watch for meteors, or just lie on your back and look up at the stars.
Star-gazing at Brighton State Park

Mt. Philo State Park in Charlotte, Vermont
Mt. Philo is known for its’ stunning views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack mountains during the day. At night, the hillside location is also perfect for sky-gazing,  

Silver Lake State Park in Barnard, Vermont
The beach is very popular during the day. After hours, the park is much more quiet. The campground is close to the lake, and a relaxing spot to spend an evening.  

Button Bay State Park in Ferrisburgh Vermont
Many of these sites are located in an area of open field, with few pesky trees to block your view of the sky after dark.  

Half Moon Pond State Park in Hubbardton, Vermont
Many of these sites are right on the water, giving you opportunities for views of both water and night sky.

Brighton State Park in Island Pond, Vermont and Maidstone State Park in Maidstone, Vermont

Located up in the Northeast Kingdom, these are probably our two most remote parks, even by Vermont standards! Being so far away from “civilization” means clear skies and views of a lot (...a LOT) of stars. 

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