Earlier this year, approximately 80 people oohed and ahhed as meteors streaked across the sky from all directions over Shasta Lake during the Perseid meteor showers. In partnership with the Shasta Astronomy Club, the Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area provided visitors with expert information on celestial objects and events and a guided tour through the night sky.
This weekend, you have an opportunity to do the same when the 2013 Leonid meteor shower peaks on the night of Saturday, Nov. 16 into the early morning hours of Sunday, Nov. 17. According to NASA, Leonids are bits of debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years the comet visits the inner solar system and leaves debris in its wake. Many of these have drifted across the November portion of Earth’s orbit. Whenever our planet hits one, meteors appear to be flying out of the constellation Leo. Unfortunately for meteor watchers, this year a full moon will likely wash out all but the very brightest Leonids.
Last August, the dark night skies along the shores of California’s Shasta Lake provided the perfect backdrop for the annual Perseid meteors which put on a dazzling display of shooting stars each year. At times, 50 to 100 meteors streaked across the sky in an hour. Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area staff compiled a list of sightings to contribute to NASA’s ongoing tracking for this meteor shower.
During the two-hour event, the Shasta Astronomy Club spoke to the attendees about what meteors are and why meteor showers occur, as well as provided telescopes to help explore the night sky. Andrea Capps, interpretive specialist for Shasta-Trinity National Forest said this was the first year the forest and recreation area have put on this free star-gazing event.
“Local (residents), in particular, were very happy to see our interpretive program being so active (in the Jones Valley area),” Capps said.
The event was offered to promote usage of the recreation area for activities not traditionally explored or highlighted.
“A lot of people boat and recreate on the lake and some use trails and campgrounds, but no one really spends time doing a lot of natural world exploration,” Capps explained. “We want visitors, and especially local residents, to know that we offer regular interpretive opportunities and special events.”
Recreation area staff deemed the event such a success that they plan to host it again at the lake next year.
The 2013 Leonid meteor shower peaks on the night of Saturday, Nov. 16 into the early morning hours of Sunday, Nov. 17. To assist patient skywatchers around the world, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will offer a live Ustream view of the skies over Huntsville, Ala. You can view the Ustream feed on this page: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc.