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Grand Meteor Shower in Store for Oregon Coast, Portland, Valley: the Perseids

Published 08/11/2018 at 1:11 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

Grand Meteor Shower in Store for Oregon Coast, Portland, Valley: the Perseids

(Oregon Coast) – The big show is coming to the skies above Oregon. Look for the peak of the Perseids coming this weekend over the Oregon coast and much of the inland portions of the state such as Portland and the valley towns. From the wee hours of the morning on Sunday morning through to Tuesday morning, the highest amount of fireballs will be exploding in the atmosphere.

The peak, according to OMSI’s Jim Todd, is August 12 through 14, with the absolute peak on Sunday night. All of this depends on weather, however, but it looks as if the Oregon coast may get a better view for a change if wildfire haze continues inland.

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It all depends on the weather, of course, and that’s generally looking better for the Oregon coast than the inland areas because of wildfire haze.

The Perseids are produced by debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, according to OMSI’s Jim Todd.

“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 the tiny bits of debris burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. We see them as bright streaks across the night sky and name them 'shooting stars,' intense streaks of light across the night sky.”

They are called meteoroids: they’re little bits of interplanetary rock and debris that burn up high in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, traveling at thousands of miles per hour. They self-destruct about 30 to 80 miles above the surface.

Todd said the peak is quite broad, giving you plenty of chances. Sunday night will be the best, however.

On the Oregon coast and inland, weather predictions are for clear nights through the peak and into next week. But if wildfire haze starts up again after a brief bout of rain on Saturday, Portland and the valley towns will have more difficulty seeing the bursts of light than the beaches.

Todd suggests sticking to places that have little to no light interference, which will definitely not be a problem on the Oregon coast. But beaches or viewpoints with no light around them will really make the sky stand out and you’ll see many more of the tiny fireballs.

“Most meteors are seen looking about 50 degrees from the "radiant" which lies between Perseus and Cassiopeia,” Todd said. “This year, a waxing crescent moon sets well before midnight of the 12th so it will be best to observe them as soon as it is dark.”

Todd said the Perseids are the best known intersections of Earth’s orbit and the cosmic dust of comets.

“This meteor shower occurs when the Earth enters a debris path left by the comet Swift-Tuttle during its last trip past the Sun in December 1992,” Todd said. “As comets orbit the Sun, they shed an icy, dusty debris stream along the comet's orbit.”

Todd said you can easily watch the meteor showers without the aid of optics, 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.

OMSI is putting together two Star Parties on Sunday, August 12: one at Rooster Rock State Park in the Columbia Gorge and another at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park in the Oregon Coast Range. They both begin at 9 p.m. OMSI staff will be presenting informal talks about the meteor shower, constellations, and the summer sky. See https://omsi.edu for more information. Oregon Coast Lodgings for this event - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour

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