A star show to remember

The annual Perseid meteor shower is coming up soon, though this year’s event may be less vibrant than most.

The Perseid meteor shower is an annual astronomical event in which the earth passes through a field of space dust that burns up in our atmosphere leaving a bright tail of light in its wake.

The dust actually enters our atmosphere moving at around 134,222 mph, so it typically burns up before making it to the Earth’s surface.

These specs of dust are called meteors, or shooting stars, and some of the best and brightest streak across the sky during this three-week August event.

Unfortunately, the prime days to view shooting stars this year will be Saturday, Aug. 12, through Monday, Aug. 14—the same days in which an almost full moon is expected to dominate the sky.

Fleischman Planetarium Director Dan Ruby said that people interested in seeing the most shooting stars in one sitting should go out before 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 14, because the moon will rise relatively late in the night.

Generally, a spectator can see up to 12 shooting stars per hour when a meteor shower is not taking place, but during a meteor shower up to 60 shooting stars occur per hour.

If the moon is bright and overpowers some of the shooting stars’ dim lights, however, spectators will only see the customary 12 shooting stars per hour, so going out before the moon rises is highly advised.

The eastern sector of the sky will be where most of the shooting stars occur. Spectators are encouraged to get an unobstructed view of that part of the sky to see the best and the brightest shooting stars.

The name Perseid meteor shower actually originates from the eastern constellation Perseid which most of the shooting stars pass in front of during this astronomical event.

Of course, the shooting stars do not come from this section of space, but rather happen to fall into Earth’s atmosphere at this specific sector of the sky.

Ruby said the best place to view the Perseid meteor shower this year will be at the Lassen Dark Sky Festival, which takes place Friday through Sunday,  Aug. 11 to 13, at the Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Ruby said that telescopes will be set up in the park through funding provided by NASA and the park itself, and he expects that the festival will be worthwhile for many who attend.

For information about the Dark Sky Festival, call 595-4480.

Though this year’s meteor shower may not be as bright as some of those in years past, it should still be quite a spectacle if you go out at the right time and with a clear view of the eastern sky.