The annual Perseid meteor shower will hit its peak this weekend, and area stargazers are gearing up to watch shooting stars streak across the sky.
The best viewing in the county will also be free to the public Sunday evening when the Black River Astronomical Society hosts a viewing of the shower at the Neilson Observatory in Carlisle Township.
“The best time to view the meteor shower will be around midnight on Sunday,” said Michael Harkey, a member of the society. “This shower is the most prominent, and most popular, because of the comet dust.”
After a 2006 Perseid meteor shower that turned out to be a “dud” because of the moon’s location, according to NASA’s Web site, this year is set to be a bright and colorful display of shooting stars zipping across the sky.
And astronomical society members are not the only ones planning on having a viewing party.
The Herrick Memorial Library in Wellington is sponsoring a viewing tonight hosted by the library’s director, Janet Hollingsworth.
That viewing will begin at 9 p.m. at her home on a farm in Huntington Township. Spectators can view the shower from one of four high-powered telescopes or bring their own telescopes or binoculars.
“It will be a great spot for viewing,” Hollingsworth said. “You have to be in an area where there are not a lot of lights and you can see the meteor shower with your naked eye.”
Hollingsworth said it will also be a good night to view Jupiter and, of course, the Milky Way.
“I’ve only caught this shower a couple of times,” Hollingsworth said. “You can see between 15 and 20 shooting stars in a half-hour period.”
NASA predicts that sky watchers can expect to view dozens, possibly hundreds, of meteors every hour. Perseid meteors are famous for their bright color and travel at an average speed of 132,000 miles per hour.
Even a mere speck of dust can become a “brilliant meteor” when it hits the atmosphere at speeds that fast, NASA said.
Both viewing events in the county are free, and on different nights so stargazers can pack their weekend watching the meteors.
Those interested in tonight’s viewing at the farm can register between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at Herrick Memorial Library, where directions and details will be provided.
The Black River Astronomical Society will host its viewing Sunday at the Neilson Observatory at 6:30 p.m. Meteor shower viewing will begin at 9:30 p.m.
The observatory is at the Lorain County Metro Parks Equestrian Center on Nickel-Plate Diagonal Road.
The forecast for tonight is mainly clear and mild, with a low of 62. On Sunday night, a few clouds are expected, with a low of 66.
Contact Ben Norris at 653-6285 or firstname.lastname@example.org.