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April is Stellar Above Oregon Coast / Washington Coast - Three Meteor Showers

Published 04/12/23 at 10:52 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

April is Stellar Above Oregon Coast / Washington Coast - Three Meteor Showers

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(Coos Bay, Oregon) – April is going to be quite a month for the skies above the Oregon coast and Washington coast, with one major meteor shower and two or more other small ones creating some excitement in the deep black above. If you're visiting any of these beach towns from now through the end of the month and it's a clear sky, make sure you set aside about an hour or so to stargaze. (Above: Lyrids hitting the Earth, taken by Don Pettit aboard the ISS. He is orginally from Silverton, Oregon and studied at OSU)

Places like La Push, Bandon, Seaside or Newport will get to witness the Lyrids, the h Virginids and the alpha Virginids, although the latter two provide very sparse activity.

The Lyrids get started on April 15 and they go through April 29, with the peak coming April 21 – 22. These can bring as much as 18 meteors per hour at the peak, and on occasion they've been known to go bonkers with some 100 streaks per hour. Those, according to NASA, took place in 1803 in Virginia, 1922 in Greece and all over the U.S. in 1982.

“In general, 10-20 Lyrid meteors can be seen per hour during their peak,” NASA said.

What could be really cool is that they can produce fireballs – large-scale explosions in the sky created by objects bigger than a golf ball. Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff spotted one of those recently in Portland. [Spectacular Green Fireball Lights Up Oregon Valley Through Washington Coast ] If you're on either the Oregon coast or Washington coast – or anywhere with little light interference – it's worth looking a little longer just for that chance alone.

“The Lyrids are known for their fast and bright meteors. Though not as fast or as plentiful as the famous Perseids in August,” NASA said.

According to Jim Todd of OMSI, all of this sparkly Lyrid stuff in the skies is coming from the Earth entering a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher. Those little bits of comet burn up in the atmosphere about 60 miles above us (a little farther than the drive from Portland to Salem). They come through at around 110,000 miles per hour.

Todd told Oregon Coast Beach Connection the tail for Thatcher has never been fully mapped, so it's full of surprises still.

The coastlines of Oregon and Washington are nearly perfect for this - if they're clear – because there's little to no light pollution.

Photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection: meteor in the Coast Range

“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,” he said.

If you live in big metro areas like Portland / Vancouver, Medford, Seattle or Eugene, get away from city lights.

Washington Coast Weather - Oregon Coast Weather

The h Virginids happen April 20 through May 1, but they only yield about one meteor per hour. The meteors are very slow compared to others, NASA said.

The alpha Virginids have already started as of April 6, and they go through May 1 with their peak on the 18th. However, these too only produce about one an hour.

NASA said it takes about 30 minutes for your eyes to completely adjust to the dark.

Oregon and Washington coast beaches are remarkable places to be at night. There have been some unconfirmed reports of glowing phytoplankton on the north Washington coast, so you may get super lucky and catch twinkles in the sky and in the sands or sea. Bioluminescent Phytoplankton: What Makes Glowing Sand On Oregon Coast, Washington 

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Photos above: Manzanita, Lincoln City - Oregon Coast Beach Connection

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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