This has been the summer of picnics. At the park. In the backyard. Midday under a shade tree to beat the heat or post-monsoon afternoon searching for rainbows and sipping iced tea. Any summer occasion is a special occasion and so worthy of its own picnic. Naturally, when I found out that tonight marks the start of the annual Perseids meteor shower, four little words entered my mind: Midnight. Meteor. Shower. Picnic.
Seriously, what could be better?
Earlier this season, I wrote about how to plan the perfect picnic. But it has now occurred to me that midnight picnics are their own kind of event mostly because the focus is less on good food and more on the night sky, especially for such a special shower we should expect to see tonight.
What makes it so special this time around? Well, we are likely to see twice as many shooting stars this year (almost 200 an hour compared to the average 100) as in previous ones. This is because of an "outburst," which is when the earth's previous orbit debris mixes with our current debris (yeah, I'm not sure quite how it works either...but you can read more about the specifics here). The bottom line is that we will be gifted with a spectacular meteor shower that can't be missed! So make sure to plan ahead, pack plenty of creature comforts, and prepare for a lovely night of stargazing. The show starts at 10pm Thursday and goes into early Friday morning.
1. Bring blankets. While all picnics require a thick blanket to sit on, a midnight picnic requires other wraps of soft throws to snuggle under as the desert night turns cooler. Maybe even a few pillows to lie back on as you stargaze. Think of it as making an impromptu outdoor bed.
2. Plan to stay awhile. Looking for shoot stars is like fishing--you have to be prepared to sit and wait in order to catch something good (either a fish or a star, wink wink). If you rush the experience, you miss out on witnessing the beauty of shooting stars. Treat it like a meditation--truly, there is nothing more lovely on a summer night than stargazing, even without a meteor shower. So pass the time by trying to map constellations like Perseids, where the shower originates, or make up your own. What matters is that you take the time to converse with the stars.
3. Pack a thermos (and a flask if you're feeling risqué!). A mug of hot tea will keep you both revived and awake while you stargaze. Fill it with an energizing (but caffeine free) herbal tea and bust it out when a case of the sleepies hits. You'll keep yourself awake for the big event without hindering your ability to get some Zzzzs once you're ready for bed.
4. Pack easy snacks. As with any picnic, you should keep your food delicious and simple; that goes double for a midnight meteor shower show. Think blueberries, nuts and edible treats that won't distract you from your stargazing. The point is to nosh as needed without tearing your gaze away from the sky.
5. It's all about location, location, location--this is especially important for shooting star viewing. Now we can't always get to the perfect location, but if you can, find a spot away from harsh city lights that drown out the glittering stars. Or, if you're like me, and going to stargaze in your backyard, turn off all the lights and notice how many more stars you can see.
Summer is by far one of the best times to forget about the clock and spend some time communing with the universe, getting lost (found?) in the constellations adorning the night sky, and keeping an eye out for those elusive shooting stars. Happy stargazing!
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