Have you ever seen a shooting star in a deep, dark clear sky? If the answer is no, or even if you have, right now is the perfect time to see a lifetime’s worth as the Perseid meteor shower continues to light up night skies into mid-August. Because of the lack of light pollution and dark sky, there are few places better to view the nightly light show than in Mariposa County and Yosemite National Park.
The Perseid meteor shower happens each year in late July and early August because of a phenomenon in which the Earth passes through the trail of the Swift-Tuttle Comet which leaves behind tiny bits of debris – sometimes as small as grains of sand – that enter the earth’s atmosphere. As the objects enter the atmosphere, they ignite and burnout in seconds leaving streaks of fire across the night sky.
This year, sky watchers can expect to see the best display in the early morning skies on Aug. 12, 13 and 14. To get the best view, you’ll need to get to areas in which light pollution is at a minimum which makes the dark skies of Mariposa County and Yosemite National Park an ideal destination to view nature’s firework show.
Stargazing in Mariposa County is a sight to behold as the Milky Way and thousands of stars in the sky can be viewed on a normal night by the naked eye. But already, the Perseids have been visible streaking across the sky like little balls of fire making it even more special than usual.
This year an added plus to the meteor shower is that it corresponds with a nearly full-moon which can create a show above and below you as you watch the light show on the sky’s canvas and look down to admire the moonlight bouncing off of the Merced River and lights from people camping far below in the valley dance around on the Yosemite Valley floor.
Taking in the Perseid meteor shower in Mariposa County can be as easy as hoping in your car, getting out on a back road and finding a safe place to pull off and lay out on the hood of your vehicle to take in the show. Or make the experience unforgettable, by going up to Glacier Point or taking a night hike up to points of elevation to watch the celestial fireworks show above you as the falling meteors light up the granite domes you’re standing on.
Yosemite National Park offers programs tailored for stargazers like the Starry Night Skies Over Yosemite Tour and the Glacier Point Starry Night Skies Over Yosemite Tour. The first of which is a walking tour through the park that is both beautiful and educational as it focuses on the heavens, the moon, the Milky Way galaxy, meteors, constellations, comets, and all the folklore that follows. The Glacier Point version starts off with a bus tour that leads up to one of the Park’s premiere scenic overlooks. A Yosemite Hospitality interpretive naturalist guides the tour and gives an astronomy program under the stars as Yosemite is one of the best stargazing locations in California.
One of Mariposa County’s four-diamond full service resorts, Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite has its own twist on the Glacier Point Starry Night Skies Over Yosemite Tour with its Perseid Meteor Shower Package, which bookends the night tour with elegant comfort. The package offers guests two nights in a variety of accommodations for their choosing, a bus trip to Glacier Point and the opportunity to watch the skies with astronomers to help better understand what they’re seeing and the best places to set your eyes on the skies.
For photographers, the Perseid meteor shower is also a great chance to capture some eye-catching photos of the night sky bedazzled with thousands of stars and with tiny balls of fire with beautiful red tails of light shooting across the photo.
No matter how you chose to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower, just make sure you don’t miss out on one of the late summer’s best show in the night sky.
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Locally curated and financially supported by the community, the Northern Mariposa County History Center shows what it was like to live in Coulterville during the gold-mining boom of the late 19th century through the lives of the pioneer families who still call it home today.
Yosemite’s natural firefall at Horsetail Fall draws hundreds of photographers for a few weeks in February when the setting sun lights Horsetail Fall and turns the water a brilliant molten orange, reminiscent of the Glacier Point firefall.
Yosemite and Mariposa County are ideal places to take in the Perseid Meteor Shower through mid-August due to the area’s naturally dark skies. Here is our guide on where to take in the show.