Star gazers face double challenges in enjoying annual Perseid Meteor Shower this weekend
SEATTLE -- The irony is cruel to area astronomers and star gazers...
Seattle is in the midst of rattling off a unprecedented eight week stretch of dry -- and generally clear weather. But here comes the annual dazzling August meteor shower and just in time, so come the clouds.
The Perseid Meteor shower is set to peak on Friday and Saturday nights, but star/meteor gazers have two challenges this year in getting a good view of the show: clouds and the pesky moon.
First up, the moon will be roughly 75-80 percent full on Friday and Saturday nights (waning gibbous) which is enough light to wash out the dim meteors.
Astronomers are projecting a slightly higher than normal rate of 150 meteors per hour across North America as the planet swings through the debris field left behind by the Swift-Tuttle comet -- much of it no larger than a speck of dust. But with the bright moon, the viewing rate will be more like 30 to 40 meteors an hour - and that's in dark locations. Near urban areas with city lights, you'll only see the occasional brightest-of-the-bright streaks from larger specks that burn up in the atmosphere
Second challenge: Believe it or not, it's clouds! They picked a fine time to make their return.
Both Friday night and especially Saturday night look to have plenty of cloud cover. Your best bet to perhaps get in a peek is late Friday night into early Saturday morning. The marine layer is incoming (so, it's hopeless along the coast) and the cloud shield will be moving in from west to east as the night progresses. Thus if you're in the mountains or foothills, you could eke out a bit of viewing until the clouds roll in sometime in the hours after midnight. The other problem related to the marine layer is that's what we're also relying on a bit to clear out the smoke so until the ocean breezes arrive, it'll still be smoky/hazy before it becomes cloudy.
Saturday night into Sunday looks like a high chance of being a lost cause across Western Washington as clouds increase ahead of our dry-streak buster coming in Saturday night into Sunday morning. But it doesn't hurt to look outside and peek just in case you get a bit of random or lucky clearing.
How to spot the meteors? Just look up. The meteor shower is just an increased chance of seeing "shooting stars." They will originate from the northern skies but any sector of the sky could see the streaks.
What about the eclipse? Don't tell me we're going 0-for-2 in August!
The eclipse is still 10 days away so it's outside our usual window for giving specific forecasts since that far out, details change quite frequently. As I blogged about earlier, Seattle's chances for clear-ish weather on the morning of August 21st, historically speaking, are about 4 in 10. Then again, we're "only" supposed to have about a 92 percent eclipse. It's about 50-50 odds in Portland, and a much better 75-25 odds of being clear in Eastern Oregon where the eclipse will be total.
Long range models do suggest the overall weather pattern will be fluid with changing weather -- unlike the past several weeks when we've been using forecast terms such as "sunny for the week and beyond" and "no rain for the foreseeable future."
So, crossing fingers might help.
Get any photos of the meteor shower?
If you do manage to luck into some clear skies and get some photos of the meteor shower, we'd love to see it! You can either tag on social media #komoLOZ (for "KOMO Legion of Zoom"), or upload to Burst