This year as brought plenty of opportunities to catch some of the most stunning meteor showers visible around the Pittsburgh area. Since the first meteor showers of 2015 graced the skies in early January with the Quandrantids, there have been a total of 10 other celestial displays to view, the eleventh and final coming up in mid-December with the Geminid meteor shower predicted for December 13 and 14. Mid-evening through early dawn is the ideal viewing time, so you may have to sacrifice some shut-eye to see what many are deeming the finest meteor shower to appear in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere thanks largely to a slender waxing crescent moon that will lend to optimal darkness for viewing. Expect to see anywhere from 50 to 100 meteors each hour during the Geminid peak. Head to one of these five places that provide ideal conditions to watch the final meteor shower of the year.
Allegheny National Forest Camping Areas
Tionesta, PA 16353
The Allegheny National Forest presents ideal viewing conditions due to its location northwest of the region's larger cities. A roughly two-hour drive from downtown Pittsburgh will lead you to the southwestern portion of the forest near Tionesta Lake where dispersed camping is available at its Tionesta Boat to Campground site. Understand that while this very rustic area offers wonderful views of the Geminid meteor shower, it is only accessible by boat or on-foot. If you're up for the challenge of dispersed camping, this section of the Allegheny National Forest is well worth the effort, and you'll be rewarded with dark, clear skies and breathtaking meteor displays.
Leesville State Wildlife Area
Carrollton, OH 44615
Head west about 1.5 hours, and you will reach the serene and lovely Leesville State Wildlife Area, located within the community of Carroll County, Ohio. With little light pollution from surrounding communities, you're guaranteed a great view of the Geminids. The Leesville State Wildlife Area offers eight surrounding campgrounds as well as cabins and lodges for you to spend the entire night stargazing under its clear open sky. Head toward the lake for the best views.
Presque Isle State Park
Erie, PA 16505
Presque Isle State Park in Erie has been a longstanding favorite for Pittsburghers looking for seasonal fun. In the spring and summer months, there is a lighthouse tour, the beach, boating, biking and trails to explore; however, the winter months bring just as much family fun. Arrive early in the day to get in on the action with ice skating, ice boating and cross country skiing before turning your eyes to the northern sky in the evening to catch glimpses of the Geminid meteor shower. Presque Isle State Park is located roughly two hours north of downtown Pittsburgh via I-79.
Geauga Observatory Park
10610 Clay St.
Montville, OH 44064
The Geauga Observatory Park is situated on one of the few remaining plots of land in northeast Ohio that astronomers recognized as unaffected by light pollution. This 1,100-acre park opened in 2003 to provide visitors with a spectacular preserved space to explore the galaxies from the ground. You'll experience unrivaled views of the Geminids while you're there and have the chance to visit the awe-inspiring Dark Sky Park, which stands as one of just 20 in the entire world. Trails, green features and a weather and seismic station are just a few of the other activities there to learn more about the planets and skies. The Geauga Observatory Park is located approximately two hours northwest of the greater Pittsburgh area in the Montville area.
Deer Lakes Park
1090 Bailey Run Rd.
Tarentum, PA 15084
If you don't want to venture much outside of Pittsburgh to see the Geminid meteor shower, you don't have to. Just take a short drive to Deer Lakes Park, located throughout West Deer Township and Frazer Township. With more than 1,180 acres of land and sky, there are few spots better within the local area to go sky gazing. You can choose to either head to the nearby Wagman Observatory for an indoor, more intimate viewing experience (provided you're an AARP member) or bundle up outdoors and lie back under the stars for a truly unique and thrilling evening.
Jessica Wasik is a graduate of Robert Morris University with a degree in English Studies. She is also a contributing writer for AXS.com and Examiner.com. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
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