It is almost that time of year for the much beloved Perseid meteor shower. This year it will be active from July 17 to August 24 with the peak around August 11/12.
The “experts” tell you to look at the constellation Perseus as the radiant point, but I say just get your best lounge chair, plop it somewhere in Gold Butte and look straight up. Bring along the family, friends, your drinks of choice (it is summer, and you want to stay hydrated, even at night) and plan for a great night/morning under the stars. Through our years of getting out for the Perseid shower we have found we see the most in the wee hours of the morning, just before dawn.
The special bonus this year from August 9th to the 15th our dance partner (The Moon) will not be visible in the morning sky (Midnight to 6 AM) allowing no competition for the bright meteors streaking through the sky. We have optimum conditions this year for an amazing light show.
How many meteors can you expect? Again, the experts say expect there to be around 150 per hour. One year while observing in Death Valley, three of us arranged our chairs back-to-back so between our six eyes we were getting pretty much a 360-degree view of the sky. Setting the time for 15 minutes we began to individually count and in total for the 15 minutes we saw 65 meteors. Some quick math told us there were approximately 260 per hour. But I also must say a few years we were less than excited with the count.
Many Perseids have long tails, leaving an astonishing illumination path lasting seconds after the meteor is spent. Look for the colors of meteor tails as they can tell you what that individual meteor is made of. The Perseids like an Independence Day fireworks show will leave the viewers oohing and aahing.
Our neighbor, Gold Butte National Monument, just happens to be a terrific spot to view the Perseids. We drive down just before dark to find ourselves a good spot to spend the night. Get the cots set up (we normally face east with the Las Vegas light dome at our rear), coolers positioned for ease of access, flashlights at the ready and settle in for the show. If things start out slowly you can chat about your next hike in Gold Butte or maybe discuss how fun the new school year will be. My family plays a game with prizes going to who sees the first meteor, the first satellite, the most satellites, the most meteors and the longest tail. All in all, a fun all-nighter in Gold Butte National Monument. ENJOY the show.