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This Year’s Shower is Worth Planning Ahead to See

Written by: Donna Lethal and Kristin Kellams Perseid Meteor Shower

Photo of Perseid by Andrew-Stawarz on Flikr

The annual Perseid meteor shower starts next week, and you cannot miss it! Talk about #views! There will also be live streaming on Slooh! As one of the most popular annual meteor showers, Perseid viewing can sometimes deliver (if you’re counting) 80 meteors an hour to over 100 meteors per hour at their peak. Those streaks across the sky are specks of rock that have broken off Comet Swift-Tuttle and continued to orbit the Sun until they vaporize in Earth’s atmosphere. Perseid Meteor Shower

This year’s Perseids are slated for peak viewing between August 11 and 12, so here are a few places you will get the best views:

1. Angeles National Forest: Escape the bright lights in the city for the ones in the sky! Pack the bug spray, a picnic, and watch in awe!

2. Santa Monica Mountains: The area offers great views with a dark night sky. Just be sure to bring a blaket and your binoculars!

3. Topanga State Park and Malibu Creek State Park: These spots are also great options for overnight camping for those who want to make an adventure out of this event.

We spoke to Griffith Observatory’s Astronomical Observer, Anthony Cook, about the Perseid viewing this year. Anthony’s a member of the production team in charge of telescopes and observing activities in addition to keeping their Sky Report.

Photo by John-Fowler on Flikr

Question: What’s going to impact our viewing this year? Perseid

Anthony Cook: The moon will, unfortunately, impact the shower in a negative way by brightening the sky. This year it is waning crescent and it rises at 10:21 p.m. It is also not far from the direction of the constellation Perseus, so it will be hard to keep it out of your view. Assuming you are in a dark wilderness location, far from urban light pollution, moonlight might reduce the usual 60 meteors per hour rate to about 30 meteors per hour.

Q: Were there any notable showers so far this year? How will the Perseid shower compare?

AC: The meteor showers in the early part of the year are much weaker than the Perseids, and I think that bad weather kept most of them from being observed. The Orionid Meteor Shower on the morning of October 21 should produce about 20 meteors per hour and has no moon interference. The Geminid Meteor Shower, comparable or exceeding the strength of the Perseid shower, has good conditions with very little moon information at its maximum that runs nearly all night starting on December 13. Perseid

Q: Do we miss the best meteor viewing by being in the city of Los Angeles?

AC: Because of the brightness of the sky over Los Angeles, nearly 90 percent of the meteors of any shower are hidden in the light pollution.

Q: Where are some of the best spots to see the meteor shower? Perseid

AC: In general, wilderness areas far from cities offer the darkest skies. In the Los Angeles area, Joshua Tree National Monument offers a good view.

Q: Why does the Perseid meteor shower happen this time of year? Perseid

AC: The meteoroids–the tiny particles that become meteors when they flare into visibility when they hit Earth’s atmosphere–trace out the orbit of comet 109P/ Swift-Tuttle, from which they were shed centuries ago. The earth crosses the path of the comet each year around August 12, and collides with the particles.

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