Perseid Meteor Shower Party 2023 Recap

On Saturday evening – Sunday morning of August 12th and 13th, we hosted a stargazing party as part of our activities associated with being the headquarters of the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park. This stargazing party coincided with the Perseid Meteor shower, and the guests were rewarded with clear skies, falling meteors, and crystal clear views of the Milky Way.

The Perseid Meteor shower happens every year when the earth passes through the debris field left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. This comet is on a 133 year orbit around our Solar System and was last seen in 1992. The trail of debris varies in density and is most dense with meteoroids near the middle. When the earth passes through the densest part of the debris field that is when the peak of a meteor shower will occur. This year the peak fell on the night of August 12th into the early morning hours of August 13th. 

When the Outdoor Activities Center (OAC) team realized this was only a few days away from the new moon, we knew this would be a great year to view the peak of the meteor shower because there would be little moonlight washing out the night sky. We decided to hold the viewing party on Hole 4 fairway of the golf course, which is one of the darkest open areas in the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park. Also for this event we extended the Lights Out program where we turn off all the street lights and other lights around the property.

The map to the Perseid Meteor Shower Viewing Party on hole 4 of the golf course. viewing party

A Dark Sky Walking Path, that is in its infancy and still being fully developed, was used to guide patrons to the viewing party area on hole 4 [ We are in the process of having signs made so we marked the trail with orange flags and some rechargeable lights that we set on the ground ]. OAC team member Amy O greeted people in front of the Outdoor Activity Center and pointed them in the direction of the viewing party. We work to create intimate activities at the Lodge and the Dark Sky Park, and this event followed those guidelines in order for people to get closer to nature. Having guests walk a quarter mile to the viewing area got people away from headlights of cars pulling up and the lights guests have on in their cabins.

Follow this map to an exciting night!

OAC team member Max Collings and I set up 12 chairs in the center of the fairway for guests to relax and take in the view. We patiently awaited their arrival. Around 10:45 people started heading out and we greeted them with a warm smile. Many people brought blankets and jackets because the temperature dipped into the low 50’s, let’s just say the air was “brisk”. About 20 people wandered out in small groups and settled in. At 11:00pm the sky was cloudy with only a few stars peaking out on the low horizon; we could see clear skies in the far distance. People chatted quietly within their groups while others just sat back and waited. Around midnight the clouds blew out and the starry sky appeared. The core of the Milky Way loomed over the Southern tree-lined horizon. 

The core of the milky way looms over the tree line of Hole 4 of the golf course. The color bands is, a faint luminescence of the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Photo by Chris Guibert

“OOOOHHHH” was exclaimed from the group as the first meteor zoomed overhead. “Wow – that was a long one” I heard from behind me, spinning around but missing that particular meteor. The meteors come predominantly from the north but they were visible across the whole sky. Tom Oliver, one of our instructors of our Night Sky Photo Workshops was taking pictures. He captured this shot of the meteor shower over the Lodge as he was walking out to meet the group. 

Perseid meteors light up the sky above the Lodge. Image is from hole 5 of the golf course. Photo by Tom Oliver.

Steve Hirsch, a photographer from Ohio, set up his camera gear and was able to get this image out on Hole 4.

Multiple meteors can be seen in this image including one exploding in the atmosphere! Photo by Steve Hirsch.

The group sat back and watched the dark sky light up for the next few hours. Most people were quiet with an occasional “oooh” or “ahhh”.  I must have seen somewhere between 50 and 100 meteors from midnight to 2:00am. I do not think anyone was counting, most people were just enjoying being present and not quantifying the experience. Some people left before the 2:00 am ending but some others stayed even later to take in the night sky. The Perseid Meteor shower did not disappoint and those that persevered were gifted a clear viewing night. 

This event will be something that will be permanently implanted into my memory bank and remembered as a joyous gift from the heavens above.

Tom Oliver captures the Milky Way. Tom is one of the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge’s nNight Sky Photo Workshop instructors. Photo by Chris Guibert.