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Friday, August 12, 2016

Relive the peak night for the Perseid meteor shower – and catch an encore

Photo by Kevin Lisota
A Perseid meteor flashes above Mount Rainier. (GeekWire photo by Kevin Lisota)

Crowds of skywatchers turned the peak of the Perseid meteor shower into a mass spectator event overnight – and you can catch an encore presentation this weekend, if you know where to go.

For me, last night’s arena was Rattlesnake Lake, about 35 miles east of Seattle. Cars were lined up for miles along the blacktop leading off from Interstate 90’s Exit 34, even though it was 1 o’clock in the morning.

That’s just about the time the moon set, leaving the stage of the clear, black sky open for the meteor performance. My stargazing friend and I settled in right at the lake’s edge, along with hundreds of other people scattered in the darkness. We saw roughly one meteor a minute: Sometimes they came in bunches. Sometimes we just waited and stared. And sometimes we’d miss a flash, only to hear the “oooh” rising up from the surrounding crowd of skywatchers.

Snoqualmie Point Park was another hotspot: We faced a similar lineup of cars (and a traffic jam) on the road heading south from I-90’s Exit 27.

Meanwhile, GeekWire photographer Kevin Lisota spent the night at Mount Rainier National Park. “There was a big group at Paradise for a viewing party, and the shores of Reflection Lakes were lined with photographers,” he reported. “We could also see the flashlights of the teams summiting Rainier.”

Photo by Kevin Lisota
Mount Rainier and star trails are mirrored in Reflection Lakes. (Photo by Kevin Lisota)
Perseid meteors
Meteors flash with the Milky Way as a backdrop. (GeekWire photo by Kevin Lisota)
Photo by Kevin Lisota
A greenish meteor looks as if it’s plowing into Rainier’s summit. (GeekWire photo by Kevin Lisota)

The best viewing was out in the country, far away from city lights. Going east from Seattle, Artist Point, Ira Spring Trailhead, Tiger Mountain State Forest and Little Kachess Lake are among the favorites. Seattle Astronomy’s Greg Scheiderer touts Lake Cushman, Lake Ozette and Hurricane Ridge on the Olympic Peninsula. Check out the Clear Sky Chart for viewing conditions.

Seattle also has some nice vantage points, including Green Lake Park, Magnuson Park and West Seattle’s Alki Beach and Hamilton Viewpoint Park. The National Weather Service captured some quick flashes on a time-lapse video recorded from the roof of its office building in Magnuson Park.

Viewing guide: Top five places for Seattle skywatchers to see the meteor show

You can even check out the show from your back yard, as long as the glare of streetlights doesn’t get too bright. GeekWire co-founder John Cook and his 6-year-old son, Jack, saw half a dozen meteors over the course of 20 minutes while they sat in their lounge chairs at 2:45 a.m.

“I love the meteors,” Jack said afterward. “I liked the big yellow one that had the fireball around it. I liked the orange one, too!”

Although last night marked the peak of the annual Perseids, the meteor show should still be pretty good tonight and Saturday night – and there’s a big advantage to weekend meteor-watching: Most of us can sleep in on the morning after.

Here are some of the postings from last night’s meteor watch in the Seattle area:

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