Weather Blog

Heavens to put on a big show with Perseid Meteor Shower

Heavens to put on a big show with Perseid Meteor Shower
Photo: Mila Zinkova

It's been a perfect summer for stargazers in the usually cloudy Pacific Northwest. Of the past 70 days, 59 of them have been clear to partly cloudy with only 11 days overcast.

But one of the most critical times we need it to be clear, Mother Nature might not play along.

The annual Perseid Meteor Shower is coming up August 12th -- typically the headliner of annual meteor showers.

The peak time to watch will be actually in the pre-dawn hours -- from say midnight the morning of the 12th through 5 a.m. or so. You might also see some meteors before midnight on the night of the 11th, and again after sunset on the 12th (actually, the showers goes for about a week or so before and after the 12th, so you could see a "shooting star" just about anytime, but nowhere near the frequency of the peak time.)

But the best time is that pre-dawn Wednesday time frame.

Where to go to see? Someplace dark. If you're in the greater metro Seattle area, you'll be best served getting out of the city.  The site stardate.org had the good suggestion that it's dark enough if you can spot all the stars of the Little Dipper.

The mountains are a good place to go. I drove up to Snoqualmie Pass one year and found some field to watch. It's quite the show, but dress for warm and bring the coffee.

Once where you want to be, find a flat surface, lay down and look up. (I had to smirk at NASA's story where it suggests that picking the middle of a street for a flat viewing location is not a good idea. Um, I second that notion :) )

The meteors will be originating from near the Perseus constellation in the northeastern sky, but you can see a shooting star in any area of the sky.

So, got your spot and favorite warm beverage picked out? Hold the phone -- we have two challenges:

One, of course, is the weather. If we could have just scheduled the meteor shower a few weeks ago, it'd have been perfect. This year, we'll be dealing with the remnants of a cold front. The good news is, forecasting models do show some breaks in the clouds for Wednesday morning and evening, especially from Olympia north. (Coast and southwestern Washington? Not so much)

Second is the moon. The moon will be about half full and rise around midnight -- just when the show gets started. The last thing you want is more light to mess with your eye, but at least it's not a full moon.

Places To See The Meteors

Aside from the pass, Mt. Rainier is a place that not only gets away from city lights, but also gets you above any low, marine clouds. They are offering some dinner and lodging packages up there if that's a place you want to try and spot the meteor shower. More info at this link

More Links

http://www.earthsky.org/article/earthskys-meteor-shower-guide
http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/31jul_perseids2009.htm