The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is getting ready for its largest star party of the year on Sunday, August 12, the Perseid Meteor Shower Watch! Hundreds of star lovers from across the Pacific Northwest will be meeting at both Rooster Rock State Park and Stub Stewart State Park at 9 p.m. to watch and enjoy the wonder of the Perseid Meteor Shower. The event, sponsored by OMSI, Rose City Astronomers, and Oregon Parks and Recreations will have telescopes set up for attendees to use. OMSI staff will be presenting informal talks about the meteor shower, constellations, and the summer sky.
If clear, these mornings should give us a chance of observing the Perseid meteor shower - produced by debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle. The evening of the 12th August will give us the best chance, if clear, of viewing the shower, but the peak is quite broad and so it is well worth observing on the nights before and after. Most meteors are seen looking about 50 degrees from the "radiant" which lies between Perseus and Cassiopeia. 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.
According to the International Meteor Organization, the Perseids for 2018 maximum should come between noon on August 12th and after midnight on the 13th. The midpoint of this range falls during the night of August 12-13 for North America. Start watching on the evening of the 12th as soon as it's darkens and the radiant near the Double Cluster in Perseus clears the horizon after midnight.
Every year, Earth passes through debris paths left by comets as they hurtle past the Sun. 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. 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. Most are destroyed during entry; the rare few that survive and hit the ground are known as meteorites.
Of these annual intersections, the Perseid Meteor Shower is the most well-known. 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. As comets orbit the Sun, they shed an icy, dusty debris stream along the comet's orbit. If Earth travels through this stream, we will see a meteor shower. Depending on where Earth and the stream meet, meteors appear to fall from a particular place in the sky known as the radiant. In the case of the Perseid meteor shower, the radiant takes place in the constellation Perseus.
Watching a meteor shower is easy! Choose an observing location which gives a wide view of the sky with as few obstructions as possible. If you're viewing from the city, try to observe where artificial lights obstruct the least. Meteor watching is an unaided-eye event 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.
For early evening viewing, be outside about the time the first stars appear. The radiant will be low in the northeast but don't concentrate just on that one area but rather, let your gaze wander over a large portion of the sky. Meteors that appear near the radiant will have short paths while those that begin farther out have much longer ones. As the hours pass the Radiant rises higher and between about midnight and dawn the greatest number of meteors can be seen. Viewing through city lights and moon will reduce their numbers considerably but the brighter ones will show up nicely. Perseids are fast meteors and tend to be fairly bright at magnitude of -1. An occasional fireball is possible.
Join us as we gaze at the summer night sky at Rooster Rock State Park, located 22 miles east of Portland on I-84 just east of Sandy River at exit 25. To reach L.L. "Stub" Stewart State Park, take US-26 west of Portland and turn right on OR-47. The event starts at 9:00 pm and is free with $5 parking per vehicle. Limited capacity, first-come, first-served. When capacity is full, parks will close.
Warm clothing and a flashlight with red light are recommended. Personal telescopes and binoculars are welcome.
On the scheduled day of each OMSI Star Parties, it is suggested that interested visitors check back here for possible weather-related cancellations.
The Perseid Meteor Showers are visible throughout the state. If you aren't able to join us at the party, get away from city lights and gaze at the sky. Midnight is expected to be the peak time.
$5 Parking Per Vehicle Parking Fee. Limited capacity, first-come, first-served. When capacity is full, parks will close.
To reach Rooster Rock State Park, take I-84 east of the Sandy River at exit 25. The park is located 22 miles east of Portland.
To reach L.L. "Stub" Stewart State Park, take US-26 west of Portland and turn right on OR-47. The park is located 23 miles west of Portland.