dark skies

Perseids Meteor Shower Camp Out

Every year, Friends of Black Rock – High Rock celebrates our members and donors under the stars at the annual Perseid Meteor Shower Campout. This year, 2020, we’re doing things a little differently. 

For 2020 we’re offering virtual programming all month long designed to help you enjoy the famously dark skies above the Black Rock Desert National Conservation Area.  The Fleishmann Planetarium is loaning us a few of their experts for virtual chats on the night skies, the meteor shower and astrophotography. 

We won’t be having a gathering and members’ dinner this year for obvious reasons. There will be no porta potties. But some of us will be camping – in radically self-reliant, social-distance style. Those details are below.  

Join or Renew your FBRHR Membership today  and be entered in our raffle!

PERSEIDS ONLINE – Virtual Events

Thank you Fleischmann Planetarium and everyone who joined us!

8/3 – Intro to Exploring the Universe.
Discover with the Fleischmann Planetarium Director, innovative techniques to explore the most fascinating objects in space, whether you’re a new stargazer or an experienced astronomer. From naked-eye astronomy and simulations to binoculars and backyard scopes — all the way to remotely-controlled robotic telescopes around the planet, learn how to see the sky in fresh new ways!

REGISTER: Free Online Intro to Exploring the Universe
Monday 8/3 at 7:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

8/10 – Experiencing the Perseids with Seasoned “Star Walker” — and former Jet Propulsion Laboratory Intern Seth Nuti who will guide participants through an orientation to the Perseid Meteor Shower and how to get the most out of your observing. The live presentation includes an overview and Q&A. 

REGISTER: Free Online Experiencing the Perseids,
Monday 8/10 at 7:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

8/17 – Tracking Asteroids and Minor Planets. Take your observing to a whole new level! Outreach astronomer and Vice President of the Astronomical Society of Nevada, Tim Stoffel, will discuss how local enthusiasts can cooperate with NASA to observe and collect data about small bodies in our solar system when they pass in front of stars. The live online presentation includes real examples of these activities, information about how you can get involved, and plenty of opportunity for Q & A about all things astronomical.

REGISTER: Free Online Tracking Asteroids and Minor Planets
Monday 8/17 7:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

PERSEIDS ON THE GROUND – Self-Reliant Camping
Week of August 10

Stargazing on the Playa
Come experience dispersed camping under the stars. Public lands are open and we welcome responsible camping, however please note there is no organized campout or gathering this year (2020).  Port-a-potties will not be available (PRO TIP: rent, or bring your own).

This is your time to practice self-reliance and Leave No Trace skills! We’ll be posting all sorts of helpful tips on social media, so be sure to follow us on Facebook.

Tips for Dispersed Stargazing

  • Again, there is no “event” this year other than the show above in the skies. Porta potties will not be provided. No main shade.  If you go, distance your camp from those around you.  Click here for some good information on being self-reliant.
  • Stargazing Etiquette offers a few tips on how to preserve night vision and be considerate of everyone who may be camping and looking up in the Black Rock Desert.
  • State Fire Restriction Order prohibiting all campfires as of midnight on 8/7/20.
  • It’s Better With RED!  Your eyes adjust much faster to the dark with red vs. white light. So BRING A RED LAMP. The one you own may have this feature.
  • If You Approach a Camp please be mindful that they may wish to be socially distant from you. Wear a mask. Ask politely if they mind a visitor.
  • Caring For Our Gateway Communities:  We ask that you always wear a mask and be mindful of the vulnerable populations in the gateway communities.


Perseid Meteor Shower Factoids

The Black Rock Desert hosts some of the darkest skies in Nevada and is the perfect backdrop for experiencing “shooting stars”.  In years with little to no moon, NASA reports that over 100 stars can be seen cascading across the skies per hour.

Some people may not be familiar with meteor showers and possibly have not ever experienced them. Here is a bit of information about meteor showers and what you can expect to see.

What is a meteor shower?

A meteor shower is a spike in the number of meteors or “shooting stars” that streak through the night sky.

Most meteor showers are spawned by comets. As a comet orbits the Sun it sheds an icy, dusty debris stream along its orbit. If Earth travels through this stream, we will see a meteor shower. Although the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, if you trace their paths, the meteors in each shower appear to “rain” into the sky from the same region.

Meteor showers are named for the constellation that coincides with this region in the sky, a spot known as the radiant. For instance, the radiant for the Leonid meteor shower is in the constellation Leo. The Perseid meteor shower is named because meteors appear to fall from a point in the constellation Perseus.

What are shooting stars?

“Shooting stars” and “falling stars” are both names that describe meteors — streaks of light across the night sky caused by small bits of interplanetary rock and debris called meteoroids vaporizing high in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Traveling at tens of thousands of miles an hour, meteoroids quickly ignite from the searing friction with the atmosphere, 30 to 80 miles above the ground. Almost all are destroyed in this process; the rare few that survive and hit the ground are known as meteorites.

When a meteor appears, it seems to “shoot” quickly across the sky, and its small size and intense brightness might make you think it is a star. If you’re lucky enough to spot a meteorite (a meteor that makes it all the way to the ground) and see where it hits, it’s easy to think you just saw a star “fall.”

How can I best view a meteor shower?

Get away from the glow of city lights and toward the constellation from which the meteors will appear to radiate. The Black Rock Desert, in northwestern Nevada is the perfect canvas. Perseid meteors will appear to “rain” into the atmosphere from the constellation Perseus, which rises in the northeast around 11 p.m. in mid-August.

Once you have settled at your observing spot, lie back or position yourself so the horizon appears at the edge of your peripheral vision, with the stars and sky filling your field of view. Meteors will instantly grab your attention as they streak by.

How do I know the sky is dark enough to see meteors?

If you can see each star of the Little Dipper, your eyes have “dark adapted,” and your chosen site is probably dark enough. Under these conditions, you will see plenty of meteors. Trust us, the Desert landscape is perfect. Hycroft Mine dims their lights and has special shades to allow a full dark sky to be the canvas and our camping site is far east from the Burning Man site where the Black Rock City is being constructed to not be a hindrance to viewing.

What should I pack for meteor watching with Friends of Black Rock?

Pack comfortable chairs, food and drinks, blankets, and all your camping gear. Be prepared for cool nights. If you have maps and charts you want to follow, please pack a red-filtered flashlight so you won’t be ruining your night vision or the experience of others. Binoculars are not necessary. Your eyes will do just fine.

We encourage everyone to take in the magnificent view and become far more aware that we are just a small point of energy in this massive universe in which we live.



Support conservation and educational outreach in the Black Rock Desert year-round, Join Friends of Black Rock High Rock today and be entered in the Perseids Online Membership Raffle: blackrockdesert.org/membership/

Your membership makes FBRHR programs possible, and this year we’re bringing the Black Rock to homes across the world with virtual programs. New and renewing members who join during our Perseid Online Membership Drive will be entered in a raffle for more fun and safe family camping and outdoor recreation experiences. Win one of two (2) raffle prizes:

  • Paella Camp-out! Our resident chef, attorney and board member Jerry Snyder will cater a paella dinner for 10. We’ll set up a kitchen tent near your camp, cook and serve your crew.
  • Fleishmann Planetarium Takeover! A private program at the planetariam, tailored to the interests of you and your family including a live presentation, a full-dome planetarium show, access to robotically controlled telescopes, and special materials and souvenirs.

Local Business
Support our local gateway community, but do it the prepared way, with your mask on, sanitizer and all of the other things that you know you need to be doing. The community greatly appreciates your support during this challenging time. 

The Empire Store is now closed. Get your supplies in Fernley or Cedarville.

Road Conditions
Be aware of current Nevada State Road Conditions. Check the Nevada Road Conditions Report.

Join Friends of Black Rock High Rock today and be entered in the Perseids Online Membership Raffle.  blackrockdesert.org/membership/