Sunday, August 11, 2013

Keep Watching Those Skies- Summertime Perseid Meteor Shower Close To Its Peak

Jeff Rose- Jeka photography

Between baseball on the radio, the occasional thunderstorms, road trips, county fairs and fireworks, there's a lot for me to love about this time of year.

But I'd have to say that one of the most underrated events of summertime is actually the Perseid meteor shower, which usually slashes luminescent stitches across the night sky in mid-August. The peak for this year's meteor shower will be Monday, Aug 12th. All one needs to take advantage of the nocturnal light show is about an hour or so of spare time to gaze skyward in a fairly sparsely populated location.

This is nothing new- the Perseids have been observed by mankind for nearly 2000 years. The display is said to be caused by debris from the passing Swift-Tuttle comet breaking off and burning up high in the earth's atmosphere as the comet makes its way through our solar system. Many of these meteors are bright enough to be visible to the naked eye as they streak across the sky.

Lack of ambient lighting is key, which is why skywatchers highly recommend that anybody in densely populated urban centers head out to a state or National Park for less light and more open terrain. The National Parks out in the Western USA are ideal and are expecting an increase in visitors, with plenty of wide open spaces and miles away from many population centers.

The Perseids actually began a couple of weeks ago in mid-July and will continue for several days past Monday. I actually went for a fairly short 2 mile hike this weekend and literally lost track of how many shooting stars I saw while scanning the skies on the hike.

Moonlight will also be a minimal factor, as the moon will be at a waxing crescent (and setting relatively early) when the Perseids is at its peak.

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