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Meteor Showers & Star Parties

Meteor Showers & Star Parties

This is an activity most people think you can do anywhere but LA. However, with a little effort you can see stars other than those on Hollywood Boulevard or at premiers.

Tonight was the beginning of the Persieds annual meteor shower. This is one of my favorites for seeing large fireballs shooting across the sky.

If the weather is clear you can see the shower very well from any number of spots, but the heavier the marine layer the farther up and inland you should head.

The three best spots I have found are Angeles Crest Highway, canyons in Malibu and Vasquez Rocks.

Looking out the living room window last night, you could see there was a marine layer so Malibu was out of the question.

The show, if I was going to see one at all, was going to be late so I downed a large cup of joe and stoked the internal furnace with some oatmeal.

Heading out things didn’t look good from the start. As I headed over the hill the marine layer didn’t burn off.

After getting skunked on the Grunion run (okay I knew the odds were bad that day) I certainly didn’t want to miss this nature show and things were not looking good for our hero.

Deciding the coffee was going to keep me up anyway, I might as well take a drive anyway so I continued north.

I pulled off the highway to top off my tank and low and behold, when I got out, I could see stars. Not a ton mind you but enough to warrant a trip to more darkness.

Now the scary part. As I got back on the freeway, I could see a lot of trucks backed up in the other direction for some unknown reason.

This was the only way home and it looked like a long slog.

According to the radioactive glow of my Luminox watch it was 12:55am when I exited my truck to enjoy the show.

Less than 20 seconds of looking up a faint yet lightning fast star flew across the sky. Time to climb in the back of the truck for a little wind protection and to avoid straining the neck from looking up all night.

Soon there were plenty of shooting stars and as usual some very big ones which seemed to leave a long sparkling trail behind them. A few years back Rose saw one so large it spooked her.

Out of tradition, I made a few wishes. The first was for good health for my family, the second was for wealth and the third was for a smooth ride home.

As it got a little later, more people arrived and parked on the side of the road.

Because of my child rearing duties in the morning, sleep was a must so I headed for home after about an hour. The show was to go on to about 5AM.

Back on the road, I was dreading the inevitable slow down but took solace in the knowledge I filled the tank so I at least won’t be filled with anxiety over running out of gas while stuck a long traffic jam.

Soon there were signs warning me the right three lanes were closed ahead.

This explained the jam I saw earlier. While contemplating where to get off the freeway to skirt the jam the freeway didn’t slow down or even lose any lanes.

Whew, that seemed easy. Wait there was another sign up ahead promising the closure is now ahead of me. Again we sailed on through and then it hit.

The road was actually reduced to one lane of single file traffic.

LA is not a very good 24hour town so even though the freeway got down to just one lane, there were so few people the traffic kept flowing.

If the ride home is any indication, it looks like my wishes upon the shooting stars may carry some weight.

When I win the lottery based on wish number two, I’ll start

Sadly, yours truly does not possess a camera capable of capturing a shooting star and even if I did, I don’t possess the skills to record a meteor shower properly anyway so no meteor shower pics are forthcoming.

When I returned home I notice Google changed their logo to reflect the Perseids which is a first for me. So just in case they stop letting you know when the showers are mark your calendar. The schedules are all over the net and here is a source

My tips for the intrepid adventurer looking to make their own wishes upon shooting stars are as follows:

  • Clear weather is cold weather so prepare to bundle up just incase.
  • A pillow and blanket for laying on is nice.
  • Because the best viewing is from where it is dark, flashlights are nice to have.

If you are interested in astronomy The Griffith Observatory is great but light pollution makes meteor shower dull at best. It will get covered in this blog but separately because it is more about learning.

The best inside tip regarding LA astronomy is to check out the SMC Planetarium and Star Parties. The astronomy department at Santa Monica Community College is simply awesome.

The planetarium is fantastic so if you can sit in on a lecture or two you will have a lot of fun.

If you don’t want to pay to get in to the planetarium, check out their star parties. Many of the astronomers bring their telescopes to Malibu near the Circle X Ranch and set them up to view planets, star clusters, moons and other objects in the night sky.

When I went it was free but now they charge a small fee. If you really want to attend and just hate the idea of paying you just need to show up to the designated spots on a new moon and SMC, amateurs or even astronomy clubs are destined to show up and whenever I have run into them, they have always let me take a gander.

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