August marks the arrival of the Perseids meteor shower, which peaks Aug. 12-13 this year. This meteor shower occurs annually when planet Earth crosses through the debris trail left behind by comet 109/P Swift-Tuttle. When comet particles and broken asteroid pieces from the trail come into contact with Earth’s atmosphere, they disintegrate and form what are commonly referred to as “shooting stars.”
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the Perseids is typically the most spectacular meteor shower of the year. NASA (solarsystem.nasa.gov) says skywatchers can usually expect to see anywhere from 50-100 meteor sightings per hour during the Perseids’ peak. However, this year’s sky show has competition from the August moon, which reaches fullness Thursday night.
Despite reduced visibility due to moonlight, there’s reason for meteor seekers to remain optimistic. The Perseids are known for fireballs, which are “larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak.”
One of my favorite memories is the very first time I woke our two sons up in the middle of the night and brought them outside to see the Perseids. Tucked beneath blankets and warmed by the cups of cocoa in our hands, we looked up and delighted in the brief streaks of light that flashed here and there across the sky. Just as we made the decision to move back inside, a fiery meteor blazed right over us, illuminating the whole of our backyard and leaving a stunning silvery trail in its wake. We gasped at its magnificence, and the magic of that moment will stay with me always.
The Perseids are active through Sept. 1, so keep your gaze up and your hopes high.
Hooray for nighttime summer sky watching.
Full Moon hike tonight
Looking for a fun way to bask beneath the moon’s glow? Consider taking part in Washoe Lake State Park’s full moon hike tonight from 8:30-10 p.m. Reservations are required for this event. To secure a spot, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 775-687-4319.
Park staff will lead the guided 2.5-mile hike along the South Loop Equestrian Trail. The route is easy but does have uneven ground and loose sand in some places. Come prepared with comfortable hiking shoes and bring layers in case of changing weather. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a 6-foot leash.
Washoe Lake State Park is located north of Carson City at 4855 Eastlake Blvd., New Washoe City. Participants are asked to meet at the Equestrian Pavilion (inside the main part of the park past the campground) a few minutes prior to the hike’s 8:30 p.m. start time. Parking is $5 per vehicle for Nevada residents and $10 per vehicle for out-of-state visitors.