The Perseid meteor shower — a prolific shooting-star show that streaks the sky every August — is predicted to be double the fun this year if astronomical forecasts hold true.
Typically the Perseid brings with it 50 to 100 meteors an hour in clear skies, but scientists this year are predicting that number to reach as high as 200 when Perseid reigns down this week during a rare "outburst."
"The Perseid meteor shower happens every year... when our Earth goes through the path of a comet that hundreds or even thousands of years ago left a tail of debris," explained Whistler Astronomy Club leader Robert Conrad. "The thing that makes this one unique is that every so often Jupiter actually pulls that debris stream a little bit closer to Earth, so when that happens it can result in actually double the amount of meteors (being visible)."
The Perseid meteors are expected to peak the night of Aug. 11 into the early hours of Aug. 12. Conrad said the prime viewing time is between 1 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.
He also suggested a few hotspots around the resort to optimize your viewing pleasure.
"You want to be anywhere away from light pollution, which is pretty easy in Whistler," he noted. "The good spots I might recommend around this area would be Rainbow Park, parking lot No. 8 on Blackcomb... and then up on the Duffey (at the Joffre salt shed)."
Conrad also urged amateur stargazers to use the opportunity to take in a few of the other celestial objects populating the night sky.
"Instead of focusing just on meteors, you're going to be out there for many hours, you might as well take advantage and check out other things as well," he said. "The first thing to do is get out (an astronomy) app on your phone, or a star chart, and figure out where the Perseus constellation is in the sky and then that's the direction you're going want to look for the meteors."
You can also use binoculars so you can start to explore some of the other objects in that area. For example, in the constellation Perseus one of the most famous double clusters is called Caldwell C-14, which is beautiful even with a pair of binoculars, and that's right in that constellation and it's hard to miss."
The good news is if you're busy on the night of Aug. 11 (or, let's be honest, snoozing away) the occasional meteor should be visible throughout the week until the peak, and even after the peak there should still be some stray shooting stars.
If you want to learn more, the Whistler Astronomy Club meets every third Thursday at the Whistler Public Library at 6 p.m.
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