Perseid meteor shower to peak this weekend
HUNTINGTON — Stargazers’ eyes will be glued to the night sky this weekend as the Perseid meteor shower shows off its best display during the peak of the event from Saturday to Monday.
Beech Fork State Park is throwing a Star Party beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, at the Beech Fork headquarters, located on the campground side of the park. Local astronomers will be available with their telescopes in tow to talk about the celestial bodies in the night sky.
“It’s a pretty good time; we try to do it every year,” said Dave Pruitt, assistant superintendent at Beech Fork.
He said the party has been going on and off for at least the past four years, depending on weather.
Pruitt said the event could last until midnight or 1 a.m. and attendees should come prepared with comfortable seating and snacks. Alcohol is not permitted at Beech Fork.
Other areas with low light pollution around the Tri-State area include Lake Vesuvius, Wayne National Forest, Green Bottom and Cabwaylingo State Park.
This weekend’s new moon allows for promising dark sky conditions to view the shower, though the National Weather Service forecast cites a 40 percent chance of rain and mostly cloudy skies Saturday night. Less than one-tenth of an inch of new rainfall is expected that night.
According to NASA, the Perseids are one of the most impressive celestial spectacles of the year, with up to 100 meteors per hour accompanied by long streaks of light trailing behind them, making them easy to view. This shower is also known for its fireballs, which are larger explosions of light and color that last longer than an average meteor.
The Perseids’ namesake is the constellation Perseus, the area from which the meteors appear to originate, known as the radiant of the shower. The shower is the result of Earth passing through the Swift-Tuttle comet’s tail, which occurs annually from about July 14 to Aug. 24. This weekend’s peak is the optimum time to view the shower with the most frequent meteors.
Essentially, the light show is a bunch of comet debris hitting the Earth’s atmosphere and burning up on impact before it can reach the surface. Most meteors are a fleck of dust that is no more than a few millimeters across, but produces enough light to create a bright streak across the sky. The ones large enough to survive the inferno and hit the ground are dubbed meteorites.
Other chances to view shooting stars this year include the Orionids in October and the Leonids in November, both of which produce approximately 15 meteors per hour in moonless, dark skies. The most reliable shower of the year, the Geminids, occurs in December and produces up to 120 meteors per hour.