Wichita is shaping up to be one of the best spots in the region to catch the best celestial show of the summer.
The combination of a slim crescent moon and clear skies will likely make for prime viewing of the Perseid meteor shower this weekend.
“This is going to be pretty darn good as far as conditions go,” said Harold Henderson, director of the Lake Afton Public Observatory. “I’ve got people coming from two states away planning to observe the Perseids from Lake Afton Public Observatory.”
The Perseids are caused by the Earth passing through a comet’s debris field, according to the American Meteor Society.
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It’s perhaps the easiest meteor shower for casual sky-watchers to see, given the bearable temperatures of August evenings, Henderson said.
The Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak late in the evening Saturday into early Sunday morning, though a similar show could be seen Friday evening into early Saturday morning.
Lake Afton Public Observatory, 25000 W. 39th Street South in Goddard, will be open from 9-11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday night, where visitors can look through the telescope to view Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and potentially Venus.
Admission to the observatory is $8 for adults 14+, $4 for youth 5-13, $7 for seniors 65+ and free for children 4 and under. A family pass is available for $20.
People can also bring lawn chairs and blankets to watch the meteor shower from the grassy area around the observatory.
Here’s how best to view the meteor shower, according to Henderson:
- Get out of the city, away from street lights. If you’re surrounded by street lights, the meteors you would normally have been able to see “you can’t because the sky is so filled with light.”
- Find a spot where you can see the sky with as little obstruction as possible, and set up blankets or lawn chairs by 9 p.m. or so. Arriving by that time should give your eyes ample time to adjust to the darkness. There’s no need for a telescope. “The best instrument to use for any meteor shower is the unaided human eye, because you have the widest possible field of view.”
- Look for the meteors originating out of the north, though they can appear from anywhere. The Perseids have a track record of being “moderately bright” as they streak across the sky. This particular meteor shower “normally produces, statistically, up to 60 meteors per hour,” Henderson said.