Prime time for viewing of Perseids meteor shower

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   If you missed The Perseids meteor shower last night, you might want to set aside time this evening for viewing.
   The Perseids, which take place in mid-August, peaked Monday night and before dawn this morning with up to 20 "shooting stars" an hour visible in the Tri-Cities area.
   Mike Chesman of Bays Mountain Planetarium in Kingsport said there are no special events planned at the planetarium "because it's an all-night event."
   Though you might have missed the optimum time for viewing, Chesman said, "You may see a few stray meteors for the rest of the week because the shower does extend over about a two-week period, but it usually gets quite intense at the peak and then drops off rather suddenly."
   The best time for viewing is in the early morning hours before dawn, he said.
   "We're on the side of the Earth that's facing into this swarm of meteors, so you get more numerous meteors at that time. ... In the evening hours you might be outside for half an hour to an hour and see five or six shooting stars. In the early morning hours, if we're lucky, you'll see somewhere around 20 or 30 shooting stars per hour."
   Chesman said the best way to view The Perseids is without any special equipment. "In fact, it's best not to use any binoculars or anything like that. You just want to lean back in a lawn chair and take in as much of the sky as possible. The best way to face is toward the northeast."
   Numerous stargazers drove atop Roan Mountain State Park Monday night to view the meteor shower. However, Chesman said, "Anywhere you have a clear horizon and a dark sky" will do.
   "The darker the sky the better you're going to be able to see. If you're in a city location, you may not be able to see them," he said, due to light pollution.
   "This year is a good time to see the shower because we've got a crescent moon in the evening and it goes down before midnight. The early morning hours are prime for viewing the meteor shower."
   The Perseids produce bright blue-white meteors, often with light trails that linger in the air. The best time to watch the nightly shower is after 2 a.m. when the constellation Perseus is highest in the sky, however, some slower-streaking meteors start appearing around 10 p.m.