Photo by Emily Fitzgerald
Stargazing parties are planned at Timberline Lodge and Mt. Hood Meadows this weekend, when the Perseid meteor showers are at their peak.
As of Friday, August 10, 2018
Stargazers will get an exceptional treat this weekend as Perseid meteors shoot across the sky at a rate of almost one per minute.
The Perseids meteor shower happens annually, when Earth passes through a dusty trail left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle: A large comet that takes 133 years to orbit the sun once, NASA reported. Debris from Swift-Tuttle’s wake collides with our atmosphere, disintegrating to create an exhilarating light show for those watching from the surface.
Meteors can be seen almost anytime between July 17 and Aug. 24 this year, but the shower’s peak only lasts a few days: Aug. 11-13.
Astronomers predict that this year’s shower will be one of the best, since moonlight won’t get in the way. “The moon will be near new moon, it will be a crescent, which means it will set before the Perseid show gets underway after midnight,” NASA’s Bill Cooke told Space.com.
The best views should come just before dawn on Aug. 13, Astronomy Magazine reported, though observers will still have a lot to see between midnight and dawn on days surrounding the peak.
The meteors radiate from the constellation Perseus (where the Perseids get their name), but this doesn’t mean that you need to look directly at the constellation to see them, said Jane Huston Jones with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. She added that the meteors should be visible anywhere in the sky without binoculars or a telescope.
For the best views, astronomers recommend finding a spot somewhere up high, so buildings and trees don’t obstruct your view, as far away from light pollution as possible. Exposure to blue and white light (like the light from a phone or flashlight) can mess with your night-vision, so red flashlights and red-light filters are recommended.
The U.S. Forest Service and Timberline Lodge are holding a free stargazing event in the Salmon River Parking Lot on Aug. 11, starting with a presentation by astronomy professor Dr. Tom Duncan at 8:30 p.m. Volunteers will provide telescopes for the public to use throughout the evening.
Sunday night, Mt. Hood Meadows is holding a free “star party” from 9 p.m. to midnight, complete with telescopes for visitors to get a close look at stars and planets, as well as hot-chocolate and s’mores. Overnight RV parking is available for $15; $12 if reserving online.