Here come the Perseids

With everyone resting up after last week’s major star parties, this week’s astronomy calendar is on the light side. It does, however, include one of each year’s most anticipated events: the peak of the Perseid meteor shower.

Perseid outburst


Viewing the Perseids. Image: NASA.

There’s a misconception that the Perseid meteor shower is a one-day event, but that’s not exactly the case. We start seeing Perseid meteors in mid-July, but far more of them are visible on the peak days, and this year’s peak has the potential to be better than most.

“Forecasters are predicting a Perseid outburst this year with double normal rates on the night of August 11–12,” said Bill Cooke with NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office in Huntsville, Alabama. “Under perfect conditions, rates could soar to 200 meteors per hour.”

Be mindful that you’re not going to see nearly that many meteors if you stay in the city; light pollution will wash out all but the brightest of them. For best results, get to a spot away from direct lights—big parks work well for this—and look to the northeast after midnight. Better yet, get to a really dark place, somewhere in eastern Washington or on the peninsula or coast, away from big-city lights.

We’ll have a more detailed article about Perseid viewing later this week.

Jazz Under the Stars

Jazz Under the StarsThe final concert of the year in Pacific Lutheran University’s annual Jazz Under the Stars series is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, August 11. Internationally renowned vocalist Greta Matassa will be the guest artist for the evening. The concert will move indoors if the weather is bad, but if the skies are clear afterward the Tacoma Astronomical Society and PLU physics department will host stargazing at the university’s W.M. Keck Observatory. It’s free!

Astronomy fair

Tacoma Astronomical SocietyThe Tacoma Astronomical Society will host one of its free public days Saturday, August 13 at the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. This time it’s a special double event, billed as Astronomy Fair XIV. They’ll have activities and information from noon until 5 p.m., then open up again at 9 p.m., weather permitting, for observing through club members’ telescopes.

Up in the sky

The Perseids are the big highlight, but there are lots of objects to see in the night sky. The Sky This Week from Astronomy magazine and This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope have other observing suggestions for the week.