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Saturn, Jupiter and Two Meteor Showers for Washington, Oregon, Coastlines

Published 07/13/2019 at 8:53 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Saturn, Jupiter and Two Meteor Showers for Washington, Oregon, Coastlines

(Oregon Coast) – A bevy of heavenly bodies and fireballs are in store for the Pacific Northwest, including the Washington and Oregon coasts, as well as those inland areas in both states. Two sets of meteor showers are coming up, and Jupiter and Saturn will be putting on a bit of a show for awhile. (Above: the Neahkahnie Overlooks above Manzanita).

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The best viewing will likely be in the eastern parts of both Washington and Oregon, where nights get clearer. But along the Oregon coast, if skies clear up there, they are exceptionally powerful and bright. Ocean mists may cause some visibility issues in the beach towns or on the sands, so head to higher vantage points. Exceptional spots for cosmic viewing tend to be the Neahkahnie overlooks by Manzanita, the high spot between Cape Perpetua and Yachats, Cape Foulweather near Depoe Bay, and Anderson’s Viewpoint by Oceanside / Cape Lookout.

Looking for Saturn? These days it’s quite easy to find, according to OMSI astronomy expert Jim Todd. It recently reached opposition, which included its closest position to the Earth. While it’s slowly moving away from that, it’s still extremely bright in the sky, showing up low in the horizon.

“This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its rings,” Todd said. “The rings of Saturn can be seen in any telescope that magnifies at least 25 times, but the larger the aperture and the sharper the image, the more the detail that can be made out. A medium-sized or larger telescope will allow you to see Saturn's largest moon, Titan nearby.”

Jupiter remains extremely bright in July, but it will be slowly dropping in brightness. On July 20, those with high-power optics may get to see the shadow of its moon, IO, move across the face of the gas giant.

Two – not just one – sets of meteor showers will be in view this summer around the Pacific Northwest and the Oregon coast. From Brookings in the south to the Puget Sound area of the Washington coast, you’ll be able to catch the Perseids any minute now, while the Capricornids are already bouncing around up there.

According to the American Meteor Society, the Alpha Capricornids started on July 3 and will be active through August 15, reaching a bit of a peak on July 30. While it can be seen in both the northern and southern equator, it isn’t very strong and rarely makes for more than five streaks per hour. However, it is noted for rather bright fireballs.

The debris comes from a comet known as 169P/NEAT which astronomers believe broke apart almost 5,000 years ago. While the bulk of it is still in orbit around the Sun, what it left behind is a sizable debris field, only the edges of which make contact with Earth’s orbit. A much larger chunk of that vast area of pieces will eventually be in Earth’s path in 300 years, and it’s expected to a major meteor display then. In fact, it will likely be stronger than any current meteor shower that exists now.

Then come the Perseids, which are often better seen on the Oregon coast and Washington coast in recent years than inland due to summer wildfire haze. They begin on July 17 and go until August 24 this year, but they usually don’t get talked about until early August as the peak approaches – always around August 12 or so. The Perseids are the biggest and most popular meteor showers of the year, bringing some 50 to 75 shooting stars per hour on the high end.

“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.” Oregon Coast Hotels for this event - Where to eat - Map - Virtual Tour







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