August brings many things every year. It is the signal for the end of summer vacation for school kids and in many ways the hottest time of the year. It is American Adventures Month and has Exercise with your Child Week (August 4 through 10) and International Geocaching Day (August 17). And every year there is another spectacular event that occurs, the Perseids Meteor Shower.
The Perseids Meteor Shower is an annual occurrence that happens every year from mid-July through the latter weeks of August. However the shower peaks around August 11 each year. This year’s peak will be in the early morning of August 12, 2013 before dawn. In the Johnstown area morning twilight begins at 6:00 a.m. with sunrise coming closer to 6:30 a.m., so be out to look well before those times. The moon should be a waxing crescent. Experts are predicting a great show with possibly 80 meteors per hour visible under clear dark skies. The meteors can be seen throughout the sky, but will tend to appear to begin in the area of the Perseus constellation.
Watching the skies for meteors or shooting stars is a wonderful way to spend some family time and instill a sense of amazement in your children. I still remember my dad waking me up after midnight and walking me to a vacant lot next door to watch the meteor showers. If you go out to watch the skies you should keep these things in mind. Find a good dark place with a wide open view of the skies. Prepare for a long stay. Bring a blanket and a pillow and lay down on your back. This will keep your neck form getting stiff. Don’t forget your insect repellent and a drink. Remember that flashlights or any white light can decrease your night vision, so try not to use a flashlight or use a red light and give your eyes time to adjust to the dark for the best results. While the best viewing times are in the early morning hours, you can still see some meteors before midnight most nights.
If you don’t want to go it alone, our local state parks have some additional opportunities for viewing the shower. Most of these programs are free and take place in the hours directly after sunset. Here are the programs:
Saturday, August 10, 2013
- Cowans Gap State Park (near Burnt Cabins) - Meteor Madness at the Beach from 8:30 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.
- Ohiopyle State Park (in Fayette County) - Explore The Night – Stargazing from 8:45 p.m. until 10:45 p.m.
- Parker Dam State Park (north of Dubois) – Perseids Meteor Shower from 9:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 11, 2013
- Black Moshannon State Park (near Philipsburg) – Perseids Meteor Shower Watch from 8:30 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. and again from 11:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m. The park is also presenting a Perseids Meteor Paddle from 8:30 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. Online registration is closed, but you can still call the park at 814-342-5960 to see if spots remain.
- Shawnee State Park (in Schellsburg) – Perseids Meteor Shower from 8:30 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.
Monday, August 12, 2013
- Shawnee State Park – Meteor Madness on the Water from 7:30 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. This program requires registration and has a program fee. Check the park web page for more details. Register online or by calling 814-733-2203. Only a few spots remain for this program.
In addition, you can take in a stargazing program this weekend at Cherry Springs State Park in Potter County. Cherry Springs is one of the premier stargazing destinations in the eastern United States and it is right in our backyard so to speak here in Pennsylvania. Check out the park webpage for program descriptions and times. Cherry Springs is about a three and a half hour drive from Johnstown.
So get out and make some family memories this weekend. And don’t forget to wish on the shooting star. Who knows, it just may come true.