Perseid meteor shower: What to know if you want to watch in B.C.

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The Perseid meteor shower is a veritable symphony of shooting stars, and an annual treat for stargazers and skywatchers.

The sky is expected to light up with between 50 to 70 of the bright flashes per hour, as Earth passes through the debris trail of the comet Swift-Tuttle.

This year’s event is expected to be unusually spectacular, because there will be almost no visible moon in the sky and because Earth will pass directly through the centre of Swift-Tuttle’s dust cloud, said Leigh Cummings, Vancouver Centre president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC).


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Those particles, ranging from dust specks to fragments the size of a pea, will tear into Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of up to 50 kilometres-per-second, burning up and creating a visible light show.

“They’ll be a streak of light that will travel across very quickly, so you’ll see this flash of light going across the sky,” Cummings said.

“A larger one, you might see some colour, you might get some burning of the oxygen and stuff in the air, you’ll get greens and that. And some of the really big ones, you’ll see a bit of a trail after. Those are quite spectacular.”

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How to watch

Earth is already making its way into the the cloud of debris, but the event is slated to peak between Saturday night and Monday morning.

Aspiring stargazers should find a flat place, away from bright lights or urban centres, one that allows them to see as much of the sky as possible, according to Cummigns.

He said viewers should avoid using telescopes or binoculars, which will limit their field of view.

“Wide open fields are the best. The darker the better, the less light pollution the better, so people that are in the interior or maybe up in Manning Park will get the best views,” said Cummings.

Be patient, stay warm, and keep looking up.


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Cummings said if you can stick it out, the best viewing is between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.

Start by looking towards the northeast, in the direction of the constellation of Perseus earlier in the evening. As Earth rotates, the best field of viewing will move across the sky, Cummings said.

Viewing will also be best in the southern parts of B.C., where the sky stays darker for longer.

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What about the weather?

Now for the bad news. Stargazers in Metro Vancouver and some parts of the southern interior might not get as good of a show this year because of clouds and possible rain slated to roll in on Saturday and into Sunday.

“Unfortunately, we do have clouds moving in with an area of low pressure, right on time for the meteor shower. This will be the case for much of the southern half of the province,” said Global BC weather reporter Kasia Bodurka.

“We have the possibility of showers and even thundershowers across the south Saturday night.”

Prince Rupert and a number of other northern areas should have clear skies, and parts of the South Okanagan and Boundary regions should see some clear breaks.

As for that wildfire haze?


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“Smoke won’t inhibit the viewing of the meteor shower too significantly this weekend, as it is expected to improve slightly in the interior and in areas that it is thicker, smoke should still be able to shine through,” said Global BC Meteorologist Peter Quinlan.

The worst of the weather is expected to clear up Sunday and into Monday, which is good news according to Cummings.

He said “Zulu Hour,” the absolute peak of the event, is slated for the earliest hours of Monday morning.

“If you’re not a working person on Monday morning, you could stay up Sunday night into the wee hours of the morning and catch just as good, maybe even a better view,” he said.

“Especially if it’s after a rain storm, the sky will be a lot clearer, the air will be clearer.”

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Star parties

If you’re looking to take the show in with a crowd, there are several events scheduled around B.C. on Saturday and a few into Sunday and Monday.

On Friday night, Simon Fraser University’s Trottier observatory hosts its regular Starry Nights sky-watching event.

On Saturday, the RASC is participating in a special Perseid viewing event at Aldergrove Regional Park from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., which includes guest speakers. The event will permit a rare chance for overnight camping in the park. There is a $2 fee to help cover the cost of portable toilets.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan is also hosting a free meteor shower event from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Kopje Regional Park on Okanagan Lake near Kelowna.

There’s another Okanagan event at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Kaladen from 7:15 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

On the Sunshine Coast, there is an Astronomy in the Park event at the Porpoise Bay Provincial Park.

On Vancouver Island, you can head to the Island Star Party in Duncan from Aug. 10 to 12.

The RASC is also hosting an open house at the observatory in Prince George on Sunday Aug. 12 from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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