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Remnants of Halley's Comet Over Oregon, the Coast This Month

Published 05/03/2016 at 7:11 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Photo: stars moving above Rockaway Beach

(Oregon Coast) – The northern hemisphere is getting quite the interstellar show right now, and it will start its peak on Thursday for Oregon, Portland and the coastline with the spectacle known as the Eta Aquarids. This particular meteor shower comes from the tiny bits leftover from the trail of Halley's Comet. (Photo: stars moving above Rockaway Beach).

The Eta Aquarids actually started on April 20 and will run until about May 21. The peak times run from Thursday evening to Saturday night, with less of a moon over the weekend allowing darker skies and more fireballs.

How to watch? Find a spot away from city lights, say scientists, with about two hours before dawn probably the best. The Oregon coast will be perfect for this, with just about every beach hidden from light interference. Some of the best spots can be the high viewpoints, simply because of the dramatic views paired with the sky show. These include the Neahkahnie overlooks by Manzanita, Cape Foulweather near Depoe Bay, the pullouts just south of Yachats or Silver Point near Cannon Beach.

For Portlanders heading into the coast range or the countrysides of Clackamas or Washington counties will be prime as well.

Scientists say these meteor showers tend to come in bursts and there will often be lulls where nothing happens.

Halley's Comet is a ball of ice and rock that is left over from the formation of our solar system, only seen once every 75 years. The last time Earthlings saw it was 1986, and it's not due to return until 2061. The comet's tail also creates the Orionid meteor showers in October.

As it continues zipping around our solar system, it leaves behind a dusty trail. When the comet swings close to the sun on its orbit-like path, the sun heats its icy surface, which then releases particles of not just ice but dust as well. When the Earth's orbit wanders into that debris field, they start hitting the atmosphere and burn up as fiery little streaks of light.

These are the shooting stars we see in a meteor shower.

The tiny chunks hit at about 40 miles per second.

If you're really lucky while watching this on the Oregon coast, you may also encounter the famed “glowing sand” phenomenon on the beach. There are few sights as awesome and awe-inspiring as seeing fiery flickers above and below you. Where to stay for this - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour

This is created by tiny phytoplankton that are bioluminescent, which means they glow via the same mechanism fireflies glow. Find a dark beach (keep a flashlight to watch the tide and keep safety in mind). Then find the wet sand close to the tide line, and if conditions are right you'll see tiny dots of light when you scrape your feet in the sand. Keep an eye on Oregon Coast Weather.







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