Major Shooting Stars, Other Phenomena This Weekend Above Oregon, Coast Range
(Portland, Oregon) – Portland science museum OMSI is talking about the Lyrid Meteor Showers happening this weekend around Oregon, and it's still planning a couple of star parties in the Oregon coast range and the Gorge in spite of what looks to be so-so weather. (Above: near Cannon Beach at night)
OMSI planetarium manager Jim Todd said Earth is entering a stream of debris from an ancient comet called Thatcher, which results in lots of dust hitting the atmosphere and perhaps as many as 10 to 20 meteors per hour.
Each year in late April, Earth wanders into the dusty tail of Comet Thatcher, causing the so-called Lyrids. The peak is April 21 and 22. Some parts of the debris field are thicker than others and can result in a sudden surge of meteor streaks, according to SpaceWeather.com. It's possible it could contain as many as 100 streaks per hour. (Above: Manzanita star streaks this week).
It's all caused by flakes of comet dust, most no bigger than grains of sand. These strike Earth's atmosphere traveling 49 km/s (110,000 mph) and disintegrate as streaks of light. They can actually leave smokey trails in the sky after disintegration, Todd said.
With the Lyrids peak predicted for Sunday and Monday, sky conditions are expected to improve on those nights around Oregon.
Saturday, however, is to be mostly cloudy, say forecasters, which will be problematic for OMSI Star Parties on that day, April 20. These start at 7:30 p.m. at Rooster Rock State Park in the Columbia Gorge and at LL Stub Stewart State Park in the north Oregon coast range.
The parties welcome beginners to experts of all ages, providing an opportunity to view the stars and other celestial objects up close and personal through telescopes. Viewing highlights includes the planet Jupiter and Saturn, waxing gibbous moon, Beehive star cluster and more. Also the International Space Station will be passing over twice during the viewing.
It's all part of Astronomy Day at OMSI.
So far, given the weather predictions, OMSI is going forward with the Star Parties. (Above: Cannon Beach at night this week)
On the scheduled day of each OMSI Star Parties, it is suggested that interested visitors call the OMSI Star Parties Hotline, 503 797-4000 #3 then #5, or check the OMSI Star Parties web site for possible weather-related cancellations. The event starts at sunset and is free with $5 parking per vehicle. Warm clothing and a flashlight with red light are recommended. Personal telescopes and binoculars are welcome.
Weather predictions for the Oregon coast bode well for viewing the meteor showers on Sunday and Monday, especially on the latter evening. Beaches at night are perfect for viewing such things, if cloud conditions permit, because skies are much darker and there is little to no interference from street lights. You'll find plenty of dark spots perfect for viewing in Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Yachats, Florence;,Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Rockaway Beach, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside and Pacific City.
Below: Cape Foulweather at night
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