Nature's light show: Meteor showers this week

New Hampshire Union Leader
August 09. 2014 9:57PM
A typical meteor shower is shown in this stock photo. One or more meteors can be seen during such a shower. (COURTESY)

Fireworks have had their run. Now it's time for nature to light up the sky with a display as striking as even the best man-made grand finale.

For no cost at all, anybody can go outside and simply look to the skies this week to view the Perseid meteor shower, which will be at its peak through Wednesday. The shower is one of the brighter ones of the year and takes place each August. At its peak, up to 100 meteors can be seen per hour.

Consisting of debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseids are named after the constellation Perseus. This is because the shower appears to emanate from Perseus's direction in the northeastern part of the sky.

Peak viewing may require an alarm clock. According to Tom Cocchiaro, vice president of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society, the shower is best viewed between 2 and 4 a.m. from a dark and open area. At that time, Cocchiaro said, the earth will be spinning opposite the debris, increasing its velocity and thereby making it appear brighter.

The best days to see the shower will be Tuesday and Wednesday, according to R.P. Hale, senior educator at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord. At that time, Hale said, the meteors still will be in their greatest numbers, and they won't have as much competition from the weekend's full moon.

She stressed, however, that those aren't the only days to watch the event. The Perseid shower could be visible for several weeks, she said.

Hale suggested getting away from city lights for the best experience.

"It's a very intense and long-lasting shower," she said.

A Lakes Region attraction will offer one of the best platforms from which to view the shower.

The M/S Mount Washington is partnering with the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center for a Friday cruise offering education, entertainment and, of course, the Perseid light show. Set to the backdrop of the shower, the three-hour cruise will leave Weirs Beach at 7 p.m. and Meredith at 7:30.

"Out on the lake at night, it's obviously gorgeous," said Jim Morash, captain of the Mount Washington and general manager of Mount Washington Cruises. "On a clear night, you can see stars everywhere."

The cruise will include a buffet and entertainment, as well as exhibits and displays by the Discovery Center. Tickets are $51 for adults and $20 for children 4-12. Children under 4 are free.

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