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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How to Best Enjoy the Perseid Meteor Shower this Weekend

Posted By on Tue, Aug 7, 2012 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge 800px_Perseid_meteor_and_Milky_Way_in_2009.jpg

Every August, we (the Earth) pass through the debris left by our old friend Comet 109P, aka Comet Swift-Tunnel, resulting in the Perseid meteor shower. This year, these beautiful paths of light will be brightest from August 11-13, peaking on Saturday night. Date night! However, star gazing isn't so simple for us cityfolk, so here are some tips for an ace visual experience, with help from NASA and the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland.

How to watch a meteor shower:

Get away from it all

Unfortunately, San Francisco makes too many of its own pretty lights for us to be able to see much of the show, so stargazers will have to head outside the city to darker, more remote areas to be able to see the expected 80 meteors an hour. For the best visibility, go high: Mount Diablo, Sonoma, the Santa Cruz Mountains, or the Lick Observatory at Mount Hamilton are ideal. Briones Regional Park in the East Bay also has fairly good visibility that's a bit closer.

Turn on your night vision

A mountain can turn into a Cinedome once you let your eyes adjust accordingly for your own viewing pleasure. This means relax your eyes, allow them at least 30 minutes of blissful, uninterrupted droopy-eyed staring at the sky, and avoid looking at your cell phone. If you must look at something back down on Earth, use a red light. (Use your mutual night vision to look into your date's eyes a couple times or something too, he or she'd probably like that.) To fully recognize a slew of shooting stars also takes some patient viewing. If you lay back and keep looking up without looking at one specific spot or for one specific movement, your eyes will be more likely to notice more meteors.

Make sure the moon's in check

Bright, expansive moonlight basically has the same effect on visibility as the city's light pollution. Fortunately, this Saturday's moon phase will be a waning crescent that won't rise until early morning, so it shouldn't interfere too much.

This is the peak weekend for the rapid-fire sky show, but you can also catch some Perseid meteors every night until around August 22nd. Watch NASA's sky watching guide for last year's Perseid meteor shower below!

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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Neha Talreja

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