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Meteor Shower Peak Coming to Oregon / Washington Coast (And Maybe Glowing Sands?)

Published 08/01/22 at 11:05 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Meteor Shower Peak Coming to Oregon / Washington Coast (And Maybe Glowing Sands?)

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(Long Beach, Washington) – Right about now, you should start looking up if the sky is clear on the Oregon coast or Washington coast. That's been a bit iffy lately, with a lot of heat in the valleys drawing moisture off the ocean (creating fog), but you'll be rewarded with some extra glittery fun. From mid July through September 1 is the Perseid meteor showers, one of the brightest of the entire year, according to OMSI's astronomy expert Jim Todd. (Above: Cannon Beach's Ecola viewpoint. Photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

The peak of the Perseids happens soon, on August 9 - 13. Your chances of seeing something else sparkly much closer to Earth are not bad, either, this time of year.

“Made of tiny space debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseids are named after the constellation Perseus,” Todd said. “This is because the direction, or radiant, from which the shower seems to come in the sky lies in the same direction as Perseus.”

Most years, you may be able to see 60 to 100 meteors an hour during the peak nights, but you'll need dark areas like the Washington coast or Oregon coast. The Columbia Gorge and much of eastern, central and southern Oregon will be prime as well.

Todd said the evenings of August 11 and 12 should provide the best chance for viewing, so keep your fingers crossed for cooperative weather conditions. However, the peak can be so broad that it's worth checking out the skies a few days before and after.

See Oregon Coast Weather - Washington Coast Weather

“Most meteors are seen looking about 50 degrees from the 'radiant' which lies between Perseus and Cassiopeia,” he said. “Unfortunately, on the peak, a near full moon will diminish much of Perseids from viewing in 2022.”

He suggests start looking on the 12th as soon as it's dark.

Coastal spots such as those vast areas in between the south Oregon coast towns of Brookings, Gold Beach, Port Orford and Bandon will be downright pitch black. Higher headlands and viewpoints like at Neahkahnie Mountain, Cape Foulweather near Depoe Bay or Anderson's Viewpoint near Oceanside will be excellent. On the Washington side, much of the Long Beach Peninsula, areas outside of Westport and up around Forks should show some brilliant skies.

Photo courtesy NASA

But there's something else amazing that often happens with the beaches at night this time of year as well.

Another tip no one else talks about: this time of year can be plentiful for the “glowing sand” phenomenon, basically biolumiscent phytoplankton. This can sometimes be seen in the ocean as well, but usually it's more visible if you scuff your feet backwards in the wet sands near the tideline. If the tiny, glowing creatures are there, you'll see little greenish/blue sparks beneath your feet.

Seeing that plus shooting stars is of the most amazing experiences you can have on the Washington or Oregon coast. Bioluminescent Phytoplankton: What Makes Glowing Sand On Oregon Coast, Washington 

“Caused by small bits of interplanetary rock and debris called meteoroids that crash and burn up high in Earth's upper atmosphere, they travel at thousands of miles per hour and quickly ignite in the atmosphere’s friction, 30 to 80 miles above the ground,” Todd said. “Most are destroyed during entry; the rare few that survive and hit the ground are known as meteorites.”

Of the big meteor showers, the Perseids are usually the most well-known, Todd said. This debris field comes from the last time comet Swift-Tuttle came through this region of space back in 1992.

“As comets orbit the Sun, they shed an icy, dusty debris stream along the comet's orbit,” Todd said. “If Earth travels through this stream, we will see a meteor shower.” MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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