Perseids from Coe

by Jerry Elmer

With the Perseids coming on the full moon as well as a weeknight, there wasn't much fanfare in the usual astronomy media for this year's shower. I didn't find any publicized peak or other info, even for other parts of the world. I arrived at Coe slightly after 8pm, just as the sun was setting, and got to see a rather dim green flash. On two other occasions I have seen quite brilliant green flashes in the same spot, just outside the gate at the overflow parking lot.

When I arrived, there was no one there, and I remained alone until 12:30am when a woman arrived who stayed until 2am. About 2:20, five teenage girls arrived in a sedan wanting to know when the meteor shower would start. Apparently they heard on some news broadcast that the shower was supposed to "start" around 2am. They were not dressed for the usual Coe climate, and left shivering after about 30 minutes. The weather there was probably 55 or so, although I didn't have a thermometer handy, and there was a constant and annoying wind that blew all night. If I had set up a telescope, I probably would have had lots of difficulty keeping it steady, if not blown over altogether with some of the gusts.

With the full moon, I found that the best place to view was in the "shade" of the big tree at the end of the parking lot. This made it lots easier to see the rest of the sky, while blocking direct moonlight from my peripheral vision.

I saw the first of the 70 or so meteors for the night about 9:40pm. Keeping a log of how many I saw in each half hour, it ranged from 3 to 9 meteors from 9:30pm to 3am. About 12 of the total were really bright, in the minus magnitudes. Two of the really bright ones I observed while going down the road on the way home. As in contrast to other years, all of the bright ones were either yellow or blue. No red, orange or green. No lasting smoke trails, and no meteors with visible flames behind. Maybe the wind blew all the good ones over to Fresno!!

Although this was not one of the more memorable meteor showers I have seen, I still enjoyed the show, and the bright meteors I saw were quite spectacular. It was still worth all the standing around.