SPOKANE, Wash. – The smoke is projected to mostly move out of the Inland Northwest this weekend, with just a few hours to spare before the annual Perseid meteor shower to peaks on Saturday.
Normally without any meteor showers we see 5-10 meteors per hour in areas with a dark sky (though this varies a bit by season). Routinely the Perseids produce 80-100 meteors per hour as the Earth plows through debris left by the comet Swift-Tuttle. But this year could produce an outburst of meteors.
Usually, the Earth only catches the edge of this debris, but some years this band is deflected slightly (by the gravity of Jupiter) and the Earth hits the debris more directly. Scientists think this is one of those years. We could see up to 200 meteors an hour!
When to watch
Timing will be important! The peak of the shower will occur on the morning of Saturday, August 12, from about 10 a.m. PDT. That means Friday and Saturday nights will both be good shows, although the best time will be in the predawn hours on Saturday.
During that time we will be on the leading edge of the Earth as it orbits the sun ( at 67,000mph ) and this will sweep up additional meteors increasing the rate.
If you can't get out in the early hours of Friday, you can still see part of the Perseids. The shower actually lasts for about two weeks. The number of meteors won't be as large, but you can still see some spectacular meteors flash across the sky.
Here in Spokane, we are not predicting any rain for Friday, but Saturday there is a chance of showers over the mountainous areas.
Things should be relatively clear besides that, but it is safer to stick to the lower elevations just in case to avoid the rain. You also should head out of the cities to get a better view. The smoke should have mostly cleared out by the peak of the meteor shower.
“There’s definitely a chance we could have some clouds here and there, so you know, that’s the best I can tell you,” Bryce Williams from the National Weather Service in Spokane. “I’d say there’s still a good chance you’ll be able to see it.”
Tips for watching
The good news is that watching a meteor shower requires no equipment beyond your eyes. However, the real key to seeing a lot of meteors is a wide view of a dark sky. This will allow you to see if the fainter meteors. So getting away from city lights will help.
Let your eyes adjust for 30-40 minutes to maximize your night vision.
A blanket on the ground or a lounger are also great for extended viewing of the sky.
Besides producing numerous meteors, the Perseid shower also tends to produce an abundance of bright meteors called bolides. These are some of the most dramatic meteors you will see. They sometimes leave glowing trails or explode as they smash into the atmosphere.
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