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Perseids in Long Hunter State Park

I’ve wanted to see the Perseid meteor shower for a while now. I don’t know why it caught my attention; I’m usually not very interested in astronomy. A few years ago, I arranged to visit a park at night (with permission) to see them. But it was overcast, and I couldn’t see a thing; although if someone had been there to watch me trying to climb onto the hood of the car to stare at the sky, I’m sure they would have had a good laugh.


This was my year! While the Perseids started this year on July 14 and will be visible until the end of this month, their peak was the night of August 12. (1) That night, I got to attend a sold-out kayak float at Long Hunter State Park hosted by Ranger Austin to see them.


People walking over a wooden bridge over water with trees with orange leaves in the background
The bridge over Couchville Lake.

At 9:00 p.m., we met Ranger Austin at the dock on Couchville Lake at Long Hunter. We paddled our kayaks out into the middle of the lake. It was so peaceful and relaxing floating on the still water in the dark. After a while, my neck hurt from staring up at the sky. Others scooted down and laid flat in their kayaks to more comfortably stargaze, but I wasn’t as confident in my ability to move around and not capsize. In case I capsized, I left my phone in the car so I don’t have any photos from the night to share.


While some might think that the Perseids provide a lightshow with streaks of meteors filling the sky for minutes on end, that wasn’t my experience. You need patience; the meteors appeared at intervals. But it was so exciting when I spotted one. Some were faint, and I wondered if I had imagined it. Others were bright and unmistakable. We were actually looking at debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle; when the debris enters our atmosphere, friction causes it to burn which creates the light we see. (2) It was a great experience; thank you, Ranger Austin!


I know that Tims Ford State Park also had a kayak float to see the Perseids, and Long Hunter invited visitors the night before our float to sit outside the visitor center and watch them. So mark your calendar for next August, and find a park hosting a Perseid viewing event. Maybe I’ll see you out there!

 

August 20, 2023



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