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More Meteors for Oregon, the Coast? This Year's Perseids May Be Larger

Published 08/01/2016 at 6:11 PM PDT - Updated 08/01/2016 at 6:18 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

a celestial object streaking over Manzanita, north Oregon coast)

(Manzanita, Oregon) – This year's Perseid meteor shower may be the best show in years, say scientists, with maybe more than double the usual number of shooting stars streaking over inland Oregon and the Oregon coast. (Above: a celestial object streaking over Manzanita, north Oregon coast).

Oregon astronomy expert Jim Todd – with Portland's OMSI - said the meteor shower began two weeks ago and continues until August 25th, making it one of the longest showers around. But the actual peaks arrive during the morning of Friday, August 12.

This year, however, could well be larger than has been seen in years, known as an “outburst” year. NASA scientists say the Perseid Meteor Shower 2016 the usual amount of shooting stars is about 80 per hour, this year will see an "outburst" of as high as 200 meteors per hour.

Todd said that every year the Earth passes through debris fields left by comets streaking through the solar system. This is what causes a meteor shower: these tiny bits hit the atmosphere and burn up.

“Of these annual intersections, the Perseid Meteor Shower is the most well-known,” Todd said. “This meteor shower occurs when the Earth enters a debris path left by the comet Swift-Tuttle during its last trip past the Sun in December 1992. As comets orbit the Sun, they shed an icy, dusty debris stream along the comet's orbit. If Earth travels through this stream, we will see a meteor shower.”

So why is this year's show particularly big?

Space.com is reporting this has to with the trail being a little more crowded than usual. This happens because of the influence of Jupiter's gravity. The trail itself has an orbit around the solar system, and this year it took the countless tiny pieces of debris closer to Jupiter than usual. Jupiter's gravity can cause the particles to concentrate in certain areas: in this case, in the path where Earth's orbit intersects with the debris field.

How to watch the meteor shower? Getting away from city lights is the most important aspect, and all of the Oregon coast will be prime for that. Skies there are also much clearer, unless you're dealing with a lot of ocean mist.

To alleviate this issue, high vantage points along the Oregon coast will be great, such as the overlooks at Manzanita, Cape Foulweather near Depoe Bay, Anderson's Viewpoint near Oceanside, or the high elevation pullouts just beneath Cape Perpetua by Yachats.

Wherever you are, Todd said you should find an observing location with a wide view of the sky and as few obstructions as possible.

“If you're viewing from the city, try to observe where artificial lights obstruct the least,” Todd said. “Meteor watching is an unaided-eye event but binoculars are handy for watching trails (persistent trains) that may hang in the sky for one or more seconds after a meteor's passage.” Where to stay for this - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour

August 12 also means that Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is hosting its largest star party of the year on Friday, August 12: the Perseid Meteor Shower Watch. Hundreds of star watchers will gather in the Gorge and in the Oregon Coast Range – at Rooster Rock State Park and Stub Stewar State Park, respectively.

OMSI staff will be presenting informal talks about the meteor shower, constellations, and the summer sky.

On the scheduled day of each OMSI Star Party, it is suggested that interested visitors check the OMSI Star Parties web site http://www.omsi.edu/ for possible weather-related cancellations.

To reach Rooster Rock State Park, take I-84 east of the Sandy River at exit 25. The park is located 22 miles east of Portland.

To reach L.L. "Stub" Stewart State Park, take US-26 west of Portland and turn right on OR-47. The park is located 23 miles west of Portland.





 

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