Perseids Peak Early Friday, August 12
Looks like it is time to put in to take next Friday off, or at least call in sick. The Perseid meteor shower always peaks around 2 a.m. local time, wherever you are. If you’re one of the lucky ones who have Fridays off (some companies work what is called a 9/80 work schedule, others work a 4/40 work schedule), you’re in luck!!! You don’t need to take a vacation day to see the 2016 Perseid Meteor Shower. For others, it looks like now is the time to put in your vacation request. According to this article on Space.com, this year’s Perseid Meteor Shower is expected to have even more meteors than years past, up to 150 meteors per hour. http://www.space.com/32868-perseid-meteor-shower-guide.html
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No Moon Equals Great Viewing
With a first quarter Moon, moon set will be at 1:06 a.m. in San Diego on the morning of August 12th. That means that the Moon will have set before the Perseid Meteor Shower hits its peak, providing maximum darkness, and the best chance to see a high intensity of meteors. I use this website for Moon rise and set times to plan my observing days: http://www.timeanddate.com/moon/usa/san-diego
San Diego’s Mount Laguna is best location
Mount Laguna, about 60 miles East of San Diego on HIghway 8, is the best location I have found nearby for watching the Perseid Meteor Shower, or any type of celestial or stargazing event. Mount Laguna is extremely easy to get to. Just take Interstate 8 east to the Sunrise Highway exit. This will be about 13 miles east of Alpine. Once on Sunrise Highway, proceed north, up the hill. One of my favorite viewing spots is at about mile marker 15.5 on the left, west, side of Sunrise Highway. There is a very large area on the side of the road, covered in dirt, and a few picnic tables. I have seen quite a few people gathered at this spot over the years for astronomy and stargazing events, so it is a safe place to be. Warning!!!!! To the best of my knowledge, there are no bathrooms here, so come prepared for that. Pack toilet paper and/or a shovel if need be, a trash bag, and always leave the place cleaner than you found it. Bus up your trash, and any debris found laying around your immediate area.
San Diego’s Mount Laguna makes a great location for viewing the Perseid Meteor Shower because it is further from the light pollution of San Diego and, at 4000 feet elevation, it is above a lot of the atmosphere, making it far easier to see the meteors.
Other San Diego locations
If you can’t make it out to Mount Laguna, another good location is Black Mountain Park in Rancho Penasquitos. Here is the Google Maps link to it: https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-117.1321038,785m/data=!3m1!1e3!5m1!1e4 I have stargazed there several times. It has free, easy parking, a good view of the Southern Horizon, is open late, and has bathrooms and a water fountain. One drawback is that there is a sprinkler system that comes on around 11:30 p.m., so you may find yourself scrambling to avoid the sprinklers. They move from one section to the next, though, and are only on for about 10 or 15 minutes in each section. You may be able to just pick your things up, wait a few minutes for the sprinklers to work in your area, then put your things back down. Just be prepared in case you have anything with you that you can’t get wet.
Orange County, California Perseids Meteor Shower Viewing Locations
Many of you know I used to live in South Orange County, CA, and still visit and miss it very dearly. I have had the pleasure of viewing the Perseid meteor shower from South OC locales on many occasions. Locations inland, away from the coast and light pollution, are your best bet. I have used places along the side of the road in Silverado, Trabuco, and Modjeska Canyons for viewing the meteor shower. Places in O’Neill Regional Park, Caspers Wilderness Park, and along Ortega Highway should also be good choices, although I have not personally viewed the meteor shower from there. If visiting a park, please check with the park authorities to ensure that the park will be accessible, any wildlife to be concerned about (there are mountain lions in the Caspers Wilderness Park vicinity), and availability of facilities. As always, remove your own trash and leave the place better than you found it. Take your own toilet paper wherever you go, just to be on the safe side, along with a trash bag.
Here is a picture from Google Maps of a place in Trabuco Canyon that I used to visit:
I am pretty sure this road and area is private and, thus, closed to the public, in part because of the Joplin Youth ranch just up the road, but it was a very good place to go when I used to visit there well over a decade ago. I always kept binoculars, a planisphere, and a couple astronomy books in the trunk of my car, and would just cruise out there on a moment’s notice to lean against my trunk and observe Cassiopeia, Draco, Perseus and the Big and Little Dippers on a warm summer evening.
Perseid Meteor Shower Viewing Gear
Gear to bring to observe the Perseid, or any, meteor shower, will maximize your enjoyment. If the place you are going facilitates it, an air mattress, cot, hide a mat, or camping mat will be the best way to observe. You will be able to lie down and see straight up into the heavens and get a panoramic view of the meteor shower. If you don’t have one of the above, or it just isn’t practical to bring it, a reclining camp chair is a great option. Some of these are “zero gravity” reclining camp chairs, and they make observing a meteor shower both very enjoyable and easy on the back. Other than that, any kind of camp chair or fold up chair will do.
I always thought this tent cot would be the absolute perfect and most cool thing to bring out observing (click photo for details)
I used a similar product many years ago while out observing the Perseid Meteor Shower at Little Blair Valley, near Shelter Valley, in East San Diego County, CA. It is part of Anza Borrego desert, and a good place to observe in the winter (Mount Laguna is WAY too chilly in the winter, plus they close the road sometimes). It even comes in double size, in case you’re enjoying the meteors with someone special (click photo for details)
If the tent cot isn’t your speed, this zero gravity chair is another perfect solution:(click photo for details)
I have one of these, and can’t say enough good about it. Be careful, though. It is easy to fall asleep in this, and then you’ll miss the meteor shower!!
You will also want to bring plenty of water. Even though it will be late at night, the best viewing locations are in arid conditions. It is imperative that you stay hydrated. Bring 2-3 16.9 oz. bottles of water per person for viewing the meteor shower. It is better safe than sorry. I also recommend snacks, a red flashlight can be very handy (more on that below), a warm jacket and/or sleeping bag, comforter or throw (it can get chilly sitting outside for hours on end. Ask me how I know!!!) I recommend wearing socks and shoes. If you go to a park where snakes might be present, hiking boots that cover up to mid-calf are a wise idea. A long sleeve shirt and jeans will keep you comfortable in chillier night temperatures, and the jacket or blanket will keep you cozy as the temperatures drop.
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Telescope Not Required
Because the Perseid Meteor shower appears to emanate from the constellation Perseus, which rises very late at night, and the meteors shoot across the sky, no telescope is required for viewing this event. Even a set of binoculars will severely limit your field of view and prevent you from seeing the meteors transit the whole horizon. So, sit back, relax in your recliner chair, and just bask in the glow of the meteor shower. You don’t even need a telescope for this event.
If you do have a telescope, and don’t know how to use it, don’t know the night sky, or want to know more about astronomy or how to use your telescope, call me!! I can help you get the most out of your telescope, help your children, grandchildren and friends benefit from viewing the night sky and learning more about the universe around us, and keep that telescope from collecting dust in the closet.
Red Light District
It takes your eyes 30 minutes to fully dark adapt. So, if you think reading your phone, laptop or tablet while you are waiting for the next meteor to fly over is a good idea, think again. You won’t see the meteors because you will have ruined your night vision from starting at a lit screen. So, what is a stargazer to do? Because white light kills night vision, astronomers use red light. You can use your cell phone, laptop, or tablet while out observing, just put some red cellophane over it, like this:(click photo for details)
As always, thanks for joining me here at Stellar Experiences. I hope you have an astronomically good time viewing 2016’s Perseid Meteor Shower.