OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — The annual Perseid meteor shower will peak on the North Olympic Peninsula on Sunday and Monday, lighting up the night sky with up to 150 meteors per hour.
A popular viewing spot is Hurricane Ridge, where John Goar, a volunteer “dark ranger” at Olympic National Park, is leading telescope programs each night at 10:15 through this coming Wednesday and Aug. 30-31 at 9:30 each night.
“It’s going to be a particularly good meteor shower because of the moon phase,” Goar said Wednesday of the peak time for viewing.
“It’s close to a new moon” which provides for a dark night sky.
“The moon will be absent from the sky effectively all night long so it will be good for meteor watching.”
The programs are free but visitors must pay the park entrance fee.
The Perseids occur each year between July 17 and Aug. 24, with the peak usually around Aug. 9-13.
Those who want to see the shower and other objects in the sky through telescopes can gather at the visitor center by 10:15 p.m.
Those who arrive early, such as at 9 p.m., can get an early look at the planets, Goar said.
“Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are all out,” he said, adding that a comet also can be viewed now.
Visitors will be led through viewing the planets and “some of the traditional deep sky objects that I show all the time,” Goar said.
Among those are globular cluster M13, planetary nebula M57 (also known as the “Ring Nebula”) and M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy).
On Saturday, the Olympic Astronomical Society will celebrate the second of its 21st annual OAS Hurricane Ridge Star Parties, weather permitting. The first was July 14 and the final one will be Sept. 8.
Most OAS members will be happy to have members of the public look through their telescopes, according to the Olympic Telescope website at www.olympictelescope.com/home.html.
Visitors are urged to dress warmly because Hurricane Ridge is at 5,242 feet above sea level and it can get cold there even in the summer.
More telescope programs are planned Sept. 1-4 and Sept. 7-9, beginning at 9:15 p.m.
Full moon hikes are planned for Aug. 25-26, departing at 8 p.m. both days.
The hike is a 3-mile round trip walk. Hikers will meet at the Hurricane Hill trailhead, a 1.5 mile drive beyond the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. A constellation tour will occur at the top of Hurricane Hill.
Telescope programs and full moon hikes could be canceled in the advent of cloud cover. To check, call the Hurricane Ridge Road hotline on the day of the program at 2 p.m. The hotline number is 360-565-3131.
Goar is a member of the Olympic Astronomical Society, an astronomy club that meets monthly in Bremerton. He also is a master Observer certified by the Astronomical League. In the off-season, he teaches physical science at North Kitsap High School in Poulsbo.
He is assisted by several other volunteer “dark rangers.”
Goar uses a pair of homemade Dobsonian telescopes, according to the Olympic Telescope website. Ursa Minor has a 12.5-inch aperture, and Draco has a 20-inch mirror. He uses seven different TeleVue eyepieces.
During the eight years of the program, some 7,878 viewers participated.
The Perseids are one of the brighter meteor showers of the year. Made of tiny space debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseids are named after the constellation Perseus because the direction, or radiant, from which the shower seems to come lies in the same direction as Perseus.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].