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Viewing parties planned for Perseids shower's weekend peak

Jeff Himler
| Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, 3:30 a.m.
The Perseids meteor shower has been known to produce as many as 100 fireballs an hour.
The Perseids meteor shower has been known to produce as many as 100 fireballs an hour.
NASA officials say this year’s Perseid meteor shower will peak Sunday evening Aug. 12, as Earth passes through the heart of the dust trail from the comet Swift-Tuttle.
NASA officials say this year’s Perseid meteor shower will peak Sunday evening Aug. 12, as Earth passes through the heart of the dust trail from the comet Swift-Tuttle.

The Perseids meteor shower should make quite a display in the night sky this weekend, as long as local weather patterns don’t put a damper on the annual celestial show.

NASA officials said this year’s shower will peak Sunday evening , as Earth passes through the heart of the dust trail from the comet Swift-Tuttle.

Spotting the dust particles in the northeastern sky, as they trace fiery streaks through the atmosphere, should be easy this year because the moon will be in its new phase and won’t be visible to the naked eye. The resulting dark sky also will be present the day before and after the shower’s peak, providing additional viewing opportunities.

The best views are expected from a few hours after twilight to just before dawn on the days surrounding the peak, NASA notes.

Some organized meteor viewing parties are planned in the area, weather permitting. An AccuWeather forecast for the Greensburg area calls for cloudy skies and a chance of nighttime thunderstorms Friday through Monday.

John Smetanka, astronomy professor at Saint Vincent College, will lead a Perseids viewing event at 9 p.m. Saturday in Keystone State Park’s Kell Visitor Center, 1150 Keystone Park Road, Derry Township. For details and to register for the event, contact Jean H. Keene at jkeene@pa.gov or at 724-668-2939.

Also Saturday, a free star-gazing party will be held beginning at dusk in Kunkle Park, behind the Washington Township Municipal Building at 285 Pine Church Road, Apollo. The Perseids meteors are among features of the sky that will be observed with the naked eye.

The Washington Township event is sponsored by the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh — as is the annual Perseids Meteor Shower Watch, set for Sunday night on the grounds of the Mingo Creek Park Observatory.

Participants are encouraged to bring a blanket and extra layers of clothing to enjoy the meteors and other sights in the nighttime sky. Smoking and alcohol are prohibited on the grounds. The observatory is located past Shelter 10 on Mansion Hill Extension in the Washington County park.

Visit www.3ap.org for more information about the amateur astronomers group.

The Perseids shower is so named because the meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus, which is visible in the northern sky soon after sunset as summer wears on. It isn’t necessary to look directly at the constellation to see the meteors, according to NASA.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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