Great balls of fire! Perseid meteor shower peaking now

Weather

How and when to catch the Perseids

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Once again, the Perseid meteor shower is expected to illuminate the night skies of the Northern Hemisphere’s in a spectacular array of lights and colors … and fireballs!

In what is anticipated to be the largest and most brilliant meteor shower display this year, The Perseids begin Wednesday evening and will continue to light up summer skies until August 24.

During the showers’ peak — between August 11 and August 13 — spectators can expect to see as many as 40 to 50 meteors per hour.

“When you’re looking at these meteor showers, you’re seeing debris that’s left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle,” OMSI Director of Space Education Jim Todd told KOIN 6 News. “You’re looking at something that’s the size of a grain of sand, 60-80 miles above you. They’re fast ice particles, frozen for millions of years which suddenly encounter the earth, and have a rapid end.”

“This year we’re particularly excited about it cause the moon is only going to be 13%,” Todd explained. “Meaning that it’s a crescent moon and won’t be a factor — which is good news!”

And while the crescent moon is good news for visibility, Todd told KOIN 6 News a variety of other variables may impact this year’s stargazing season. “Some of the challenges that we might see over the next few days when trying to see the shower is that we have a lot of smoke in the air. The haze, low clouds … all this could be a factor in viewing the meteor shower.”

Having witnessed another devastating wildfire season, western states are experiencing a decrease in air quality and visibility due to smoke. “Generally I tell people to go to Central Oregon because you have great transparency there and the skies are generally more clear than here in the valley,” said Todd. “But they’re dealing with the smoke now so it’s challenging to find a good spot.”

Wildfire smoke isn’t the only thing dimming this meteor’s light — for the second year in a row the OMSI was forced to cancel their annual Star Viewing Parties due to the COVID-19 pandemic and State Park staff shortages.

“We usually have our famous OMSI star party at state parks Rooster and Stub Stewart but we’re not going to do it again this summer for a variety of reasons,” Todd explained. “It’s always our biggest event and something we look forward to but this summer is going to have to be one of those where people observe on their own.”

And for those hoping to observe and catch a glimpse of the Perseids, Todd has a few stargazing tips. “People are encouraged to go out around midnight and look toward the northeast cause that’s where the radian point is. But most importantly get away from city lights!”

Todd told KOIN 6 News the best time to view the phenomenon is between midnight and dawn during peak days August 11, 12, and 13, though remnants of the shower may be visible until August 27.

Through the smoke (and in spite of the distance) Todd told KOIN 6 News he believes ‘space’ can help bring us together. “The Perseids is always a great show! It’s easy and safe to watch and I think we look forward to it every year because it creates a ton of memories!”

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