The Department of Chemistry and Physics at Western Carolina University will host a viewing of the Perseid meteor shower from 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11, through sunrise on Thursday, Aug. 12, at Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Early morning hours are when the greatest number of meteors per hour (up to 90) can be seen as the viewing be on the side of the Earth facing the stream of particles from comet Swift-Tuttle, which give birth to this meteor shower. Sometimes a few long-trailed fireballs can be seen in the early evening. This year, there is a low waxing crescent Moon, which will give little interference. However, people should be mindful of the typical summer weather pattern with evening storms and cloudiness.
Participants are encouraged to dress warmly, as weather conditions at the Waterrock Knob parking area, where the viewing will take place at 5,820 feet in elevation, could be more like October than August at lower elevations. A lawn chair will provide a comfortable place from which to view the meteors. WCU Astronomy faculty will also have telescopes out for visitors to view Jupiter, Saturn as well various summertime star clusters and nebulae.
In recognition of continuing uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the community spread of the Delta variant, participants are urged to wear a mask and practice social distancing if there is a large crowd present. The event is subject to current county, state and U.S. National Park Service regulations. Outdoor events present a low, but not negligible risk of infection.
Waterrock Knob is located at parkway milepost 451.2, about eight miles northwest of Balsam. If skies are completely overcast throughout the evening, the event will be canceled. Updates on the status of the viewing will be available by calling associate professor Enrique Gomez at 828-227-2718.