Rangers at New Melones plan to host a Perseids meteor shower viewing event beginning at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Glory Hole Recreation Area Amphitheater.

Telescopes will be on hand for viewing. The event is free, suitable for all ages, and reservations are not required. Children under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Bald Mountain Heliport, between Long Barn and Cold Springs off Highway 108, will not be open to the public for the Perseids meteor shower or any other astronomy activities this weekend, said Clare Long, a spokesperson for Summit Ranger District and the Stanislaus National Forest.

Long is based at Summit Ranger Station this week helping monitor the lightning-strike Douglas Fire burning about 25 miles east of Pinecrest.

“There won’t be any kind of star party or opportunity to see the Perseids from Bald Mountain due to helicopter activity,” Long said Friday. “We can’t allow folks to be up there when the helicopter is on standby or flying recon.”

The Perseids meteor shower comes to Earth each year in August and it comes from the Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun. Debris coming off Swift-Tuttle includes space rocks called meteoroids, and when some of them enter the Earth’s atmosphere they vaporize and become meteors.

When people see these streaks of light in the sky some call them shooting stars. But meteors are not stars or shooting stars. They are rock fragments that fall from space.

Scientists say the Perseids are expected to peak this year about 10 a.m. Pacific Aug. 12. That means early Saturday before sunrise and tonight after sundown are the best times to watch.

Bill Cooke, a meteor expert with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, says the Perseids are perhaps the most popular meteor shower each year, with rates of about 80 meteors an hour. Last year was an outburst year, with 150 to 200 meteors an hour.

Rumors circulating on social media that this year’s Perseids will be the brightest shower in recorded human history are completely false, Cooke says. The Perseids never reach storm levels, a term astronomers use when they can see thousands of meteors per hour.

The brightest shower in human history was probably the 1833 Leonids shower, which had rates of tens of thousands, perhaps even 100,000 meteors per hour, Cooke says.

During a good Perseids shower under ideal conditions, people can see about one meteor per minute.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.

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