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One of Biggest Meteor Showers Now Above Oregon / Washington Coast, Peaks Aug 9 - 13

Published 07/31/23 at 5:31 a.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

One of Biggest Meteor Showers Now Above Oregon / Washington Coast, Peaks Aug 9 - 13

(Manzanita, Oregon) – Now playing in the skies above you: a truly amazing interstellar show. It's called the Persieds and it's among the brightest of meteor showers we get here on Earth – and it's already started. In fact, Oregon Coast Beach Connection has seen some amazing moments already, which included two bright shooting stars and a faint but unmistakable satellite in the space of 10 or so minutes. (Photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection. Above: Goonies Rock at Cannon Beach with star movement overhead)

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Portland science museum OMSI is touting the big, sparkly show, with astronomy expert Jim Todd saying the Persieds will be peaking between August 9 and 13, but the meteor shower happens from July 14 through September 1.

If you're heading to the Oregon coastline or Washington coast, and the weather is clear, you're going to get an eyeful.

Washington Coast Weather - Oregon Coast Weather

For those who want some experts around to help you spot them, OMSI is hosting the OMSI Star Party: Perseid Meteor Shower Watch on Saturday, August 12. This time, it's happening only at Rooster Rock State Park in the Columbia Gorge, whereas traditionally these were also in the Oregon Coast Range. See www.omsi.edu

“Made of tiny space debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseids are named after the constellation Perseus,” Todd said. “The Perseids are widely sought after by astronomers and stargazers because most years at its peak, one can see 60 to 100 meteors in an hour from a dark place.”

Todd said the evening of August 11 – 12 should give the best chance if conditions are clear. However, the meteor shower is broad enough that checking it out the day before or after will likely yield plenty of streaks. Helping out will be the moon – by its absence – which will be waning by then at about 10%.

Comet Neowise in Bandon - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more

For the next few days, until about August 6, the moon remains in the sky throughout the wee hours for the Pacific Northwest, and still fairly bright. However, for the Oregon coast and Washington coast – where there's no light pollution coming from major cities – you may still have some luck during that time.

After August 6, the moon begins to rise later and later and begins waning, which will provide better viewing for inland areas like just outside of Seattle or Portland.

“Every year, Earth passes through debris paths left by comets as they hurtle past the Sun,” Todd said. “The results of these intersections are called meteor showers when tiny bits of debris burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. We see them as bright streaks across the night sky.”

Sometimes they are intense. Even rarer still: you may catch sight of a fireball, which is a larger meteorite that explodes in the sky, leaving a jaw-dropping trail that can last for ten seconds or so and create all sorts of otherworldly colors. See Spectacular Green Fireball Lights Up Oregon Valley Through Washington Coast

These shooting stars associated with the Perseids are much smaller, however.

“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.”

Todd said the Perseids are the most well-known of the intersections between our orbit and the paths of dust and debris. It only happened because Swift-Tuttle made a close swing by the sun in December of '92, causing it to shed its ice and dust in a huge trail through space.

Getting out of the big city will help immensely, although some urban parks even in Portland are dark enough you'll get to see things you may not from even your own backyard. However, you'll still want to find a large, wide open area with as few obstructions in the sky as possible.

Oregon's coastline and Washington's beaches are often good for this as well. High vantage points such as near Humbug Mountain, Cape Arago, Cape Foulweather or Neahkahnie Mountain's overlooks will make excellent watching spots.

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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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