In the midst of all the excitement surrounding the total solar eclipse, novice stargazers could be missing out on another incredible celestial phenomenon - this month’s Perseid meteor shower.
It occurs every August due to debris left behind from Comet Swift-Tuttle and will be visible until Aug. 24.
According to experts at Space.com, the shower will peak during overnight hours as Aug. 11 turns into Aug. 12 and once again during overnight hours between Aug. 12-13.
Though the near-full moon and its bright moonlight will slow down typical meteor rates, making meteors a little more difficult to see this year, NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke said of the two nights, the meteor show will be most visible in the predawn hours of Aug. 12.
In Atlanta, we are just a short four-hour drive away from one of the premier venues to watch the Perseid meteor shower.
Georgia's Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okefenokee Swamp, has been named one of the nation’s best places for stargazing. It is also one of very few International Dark Sky Park’s in the world.
The International Dark Sky Association named the park as a gold-tier "International Dark Sky Park," the first in Georgia and the only gold-tier designee in the Southeast, last year.
The designation means SCFSP has little view-blocking pollution, allowing exceptional views of the moon, stars, planets and comets.
How can you best tap this national treasure that just four hours' drive from Atlanta?
Here are five ways to enjoy the new Dark Sky Park during the Perseid meteor shower later this month:
Sleep under the stars.
Stephen C. Foster State Park, 17515 GA Hwy. 177, Fargo.
912-637-5274 | 800-864-7275
The park is about 277 miles from Atlanta, about a 4-hour drive if you don't run into traffic. Consider enjoying the Dark Sky Park overnight, staying at the park's campground. It has more than 60 campsites, including primitive and full-service RV hookups. SCFSP also has 19 cottages for rent that include bedrooms, televisions and kitchens with basic supplies.
To check last minute availability, click here.
Experience the Swamper's Guide to the Galaxy.
9 -9:30 p.m. Fridays Aug 4. and Sept. 2
Parking fee: $5
Event phone: 912-637-5274
Venture with park guides deep into the Okefenokee to watch for meteors and planets and observe the moon. Includes "naked eye" and telescope viewing.
Sunset on the Swamp Paddle
7 p.m. Saturdays in August, 6:30 p.m. first Sunday in September.
Parking fee: $5
Event Phone: 912-637-5274
The rangers guide this paddle as the sun sets over the swamp, leaving just starlight and the moon to guide the way. Sign up in advance and bring a headlamp. No one under 5 allowed.
Arrive early, stay for the show
This remote park is a primary entrance to the legendary Okefenokee Swamp, aka one of Georgia's seven natural wonders. It's extra fun to come ahead of the starlight extravaganza and enjoy paddling, photography and abundant wildlife from alligators to heron and black bear on the 402,000-acre refuge.
Start with some nearby stargazing.
Before you commit to the 4-hour drive to Stephen C. Foster and the possible overnight, get familiar with stargazing at some sites and events nearer to Atlanta. The heavens won't be as brilliant as they are at the Dark Sky Park, but they'll get you familiar with the concept and provide a base of comparison.
Here are nine of the best places to see real stars around Atlanta, including the Georgia Tech Observatory (Ferst Drive NW. 404-385-8133).