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Peak Meteor Showers, Lunar Eclipse Above Washington / Oregon Coast

Published 11/12/21 at 5:22 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Peak Meteor Showers, Lunar Eclipse Above Washington / Oregon Coast

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(Manzanita, Oregon) – Look for an action-packed week next week in the skies above the Oregon coast and Washington coast, at least in astronomical terms, with the peak of the Leonid meteor showers and a partial eclipse of the moon that will make it very orange or maybe red.

Whether the weather will cooperate is another matter, but there seem to be some nighttime cloud breaks in the forecasts.

The partial eclipse of the moon happens about midnight on November 18, with its fullest state around 1 a.m. on November 19. The peak of the Leonid meteor showers occur November 16 through the a.m. hours of November 17, with possibly some 10 meteors seen per hour.

If you get a clear night on either the Washington coast or Oregon coast through late November, you may still see some of the Leonids, but the peak is on November 16 through the wee hours of November 17.

Jim Todd, astronomy expert with Portland's OMSI, told Oregon Coast Beach Connection the Leonids are sometimes known for mammoth shows of historic proportion, where shooting stars “fall like rain.”

“While no storm is predicted for the 2021 Leonids, you can still catch plenty of meteors between November 6 to 30,” Todd said. “The meteors result from Earth plowing into the orbital path of Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. Comets litter their orbits with bits of debris. These bits of dust smack into Earth's atmosphere and vaporize, creating the light we know as meteors. In 2021, the moon is in a waxing gibbous phase. It will hang around most the night, brightening the sky and washing out many of the meteors. Try watching from a rural, dark sky location for best results.”

If by rural you're thinking the Washington or Oregon coastline – you're right. Brookings, Coos Bay, Newport, Cannon Beach, Long Beach or Raymond will have plenty of dark areas from which to watch, especially in the hour or so before dawn. That, Todd said, is when the moon will set and give you the best chances to see the little shooting stars.

See Oregon Coast Weather - Washington Coast Weather

Weather forecasts are calling for partly sunny days and “mostly cloudy” nights along the Washington and Oregon coast for those nights, however.

“When night falls, you will probably be impatient to see meteors,” Todd said. “But remember that the shower is best after midnight. Catch a nap in early evening if you can. After midnight, lie back comfortably and let your gaze wander across all parts of the sky. Sometimes friends like to watch together, facing different directions. When somebody sees one, they can call out meteor! Then everyone can quickly turn to get a glimpse.”


Courtesy NASA

Then on November 18 and overnight on the 19th, look for a partial lunar eclipse. Though the Earth's shadow will almost completely cover the moon, it will still remain visible but turn a deep, dark orange or red.

“The entire event will last about three and half hours with partial begins at 11:18 p.m. (Nov 18), maximum at 1:02 a.m. (Nov 19), and ends at 2:47 a.m. (Nov 19),” Todd said. “At maximum, the moon will be at 60 degrees above the southwest horizon, perfect for viewing. With a just thin sliver of the moon exposed to direct sun at maximum eclipse, the rest of the moon should take on the characteristically copper colors of a total lunar eclipse.”

It's quite likely you'll have to dodge some raindrops in the beach towns or stretches in between, so be prepared for the weather.

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