The sky is falling! No wait, Science to the rescue again - earth will be passing through the cosmic debris trail of the Swift-Tuttle comet, making for a great meteor shower viewing event. Let's check it out!
From Professor Lambert, VP of the Las Vegas Astronomical Society (LVAS) and astronomy teacher at CSN:
The peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower is the evening of August 12* through the early morning of August 13th. The peak begins around 9:30pm and ends just before daylight. The best place to view would be east of the city since you want to be able to see the Perseus constellation in the Northeast. I would recommend the picnic area adjacent to Lake Mead that is at mile marker 27 on Northshore Road in the Lake Mead Recreation Area. Go out on Lake Mead Blvd into the Recreation Area - when you get to the "T" intersection at Northshore Road, turn left toward Overton and proceed about 23 miles to mile marker 27. There will be a brown sign just before the pull out that marks Redstone. Some members of the LVAS use this spot for a close-in observing location. It's paved and has vault restrooms.
* I know August 12 being a Sunday night makes it tough for some to attend, so we may post an event on the preceding Saturday night (8/11). Please email me if you're interested in viewing on Saturday night instead. Prof. Lambert said, "There will be visible meteors the night of the 11th as earth moves closer to the tail of the comet, but the peak occurs the next evening."
Things to consider bringing:
• Portable fold-up chairs
• Cash for entrance to Lake Mead ($10 per vehicle)
On telescopes/binoculars, Prof. Lambert says, "Telescopes are overkill - The field of view is too narrow and you can't move the telescope quickly enough to catch a meteor in one. Even binoculars are tough. By the time you see the meteor and get the binoculars up to your eyes, it's gone. Naked eye and open camera shutter are the best ways to view a meteor shower."
The Perseids are a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseids are so-called because the point from which they appear to come, called the radiant, lies in the constellation Perseus. The stream of debris is called the Perseid cloud and stretches along the orbit of the comet Swift-Tuttle. The cloud consists of particles ejected by the comet as it travels on its 130-year orbit. Most of the dust in the cloud today is around a thousand years old. However, there is also a relatively young filament of dust in the stream that was pulled off the comet in 1862. The rate of meteors originating from this filament is much higher than for the older part of the stream. The Perseid meteor shower has been observed for about 2000 years, with the earliest information on this meteor shower coming from the Far East. Some Catholics refer to the Perseids as the "tears of St. Lawrence", since 10 August is the date of that saint's martyrdom.