Celestial Events Bring Visitors to Borrego


Last updated 9/14/2023 at 12:16pm

It looked more like mid-winter on the dark-sky weekend of mid-August as eager sky watchers flocked to Borrego's famous dark skies to get a good look at the annual Perseid Meteor shower.

There were mini-traffic jams in town, hotels were filled, and restaurants were busy to accommodate the crowds eager to view a spectacular sky show.

This year's Perseid shower was billed to be above average, due to the lack of moonlight and predicted clear skies.

Sky watchers and photographers gathered along dark roadsides, while the more adventurous headed out to remote locations for the best viewing. Can you imagine a summer traffic jam at Font's Point?

Borrego Springs and surrounding Anza-Borrego Desert State Park have been recognized by the International Dark Sky Association as prime places to clearly see the magnificent events in the night sky, such as meteor showers, the summer Milky Way, comets and constellations.

Despite the warm temperatures, the dark summer sky did not disappoint. While there were few huge "fireballs," viewers enjoyed a meteor show that only got better after midnight.

The Perseid Meteor display is an annual event every August as the earth passes through a cosmic dust cloud left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle that travels in a 133-year orbit around the sun.

The quality of the annual show depends on weather, location and the phase of the moon.

Clouds or fog, along with light pollution in urban areas generally make that a poor location to view the sky show. A bright moon can also limit viewing to only the brightest meteors as they burn up while entering our atmosphere.

That's what makes Borrego Springs such a prime location for sky viewing.

Here, there are dark skies, and very few cloudy days. This year, there was no moon during the Perseids.

If you missed it, don't worry, there are a few other meteor showers coming up this year.

On September 9, a lesser-known event called Epsilon Perseids peaks with an anticipated rate of five meteors an hour under ideal conditions.

Meteors from this display can be of medium brightness and fast. The moon phase will be a waning crescent, so not much of an issue.

October 21 will be the peak night for the Orionids, with an expected hourly rate of 20. These meteors are from the dust of Halley's Comet and are typically bright and fast.

Best viewing of the Orionids will begin around 11 p.m., looking to the northeast and southeast. The moon will be in the first quarter on Oct. 21 and will set just before midnight.

The Leonids peak on Nov. 18, with an hourly rate predicted at 10 to 15. Some models predict a second maximum on the morning of Nov. 21 with double that rate.

A crescent moon will be setting before 10 p.m., so viewing conditions should be ideal.

The final meteor shower of the year is the Geminids, peaking on Dec. 14 with a predicted hourly rate up to 150.

This is typically a display of medium brightness and moonlight this year will not be a factor.

The key to viewing meteor showers is a dark sky location. Even a backyard porchlight can add enough light pollution to hamper viewing of dimmer meteors.

Bring a comfortable folding chair, or better yet, a reclining chair that will allow you to look skyward.

On a good year, it's a show you won't forget.