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Exploring the Western NY Wilds: Enjoy the Perseids meteor shower

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Shooting star show will peak this weekend!!!

By Bob Confer

The annual Perseids meteor shower is usually the most prolific of such cosmic shows every year, producing 60 shooting stars per hour. It’s also the most beautiful: It regularly produces a fair number of fireballs and meteors with very long tails.

Last summer, the peak of the event and the days around it were dampened by moonlight.

This year will be a different story. The shower peaks early in the morning of Sunday, August 13th, when there is a waning crescent moon which will not impact the show. The new moon arrives on the 16th. So, you should have decent viewing from the 11th to a week later when the shower begins to really fade away.

 Dark skies are critical to enjoy this show at its best. You have to get away from the lights of Allegany County’s villages. Head out to the open spaces in any number of the state lands (forests, wildlife management areas, lakes) that grace the county, or, if you live in the dark sky areas such as Alma or the town of Bolivar, step out your back door.

 If you look for them prior to midnight on a given night you will be disappointed and wonder what the hype is all about. You have to go outdoors after midnight and hang there until dawn to really appreciate it. That’s because it is those hours that have our viewing area positioned towards the incoming dust (yes, these meteors are nothing more than dust from Comet Swift-Tuttle).

Because of the way we are tilted into the incoming particles, all of these meteors will appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus, hence the name, which after midnight you will be able to find at due northeast about halfway up the sky.

Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the show – maybe an hour or two, because the shooting stars can come in waves. Also, to get the best effect, it takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the darkness (sometimes as much as 20 minutes), so don’t fiddle with your flashlight and don’t go onto your smartphone Facebooking about everything you see. Keep it dark!

Get out there this year and enjoy the show, especially the peak Saturday night/Sunday morning. You can catch up with your lost sleep during the day Sunday with some catnaps. It will be worth it.  

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