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Meteor shower takes center stage this week

Barstow residents venturing beyond their doors past midnight this week may see the bright tail of a meteor streaking across the desert sky.

The Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak late Thursday night and early Friday morning. And with no full moon to upstage it, NASA astronomers predict a perfect stage for a spectacular show with more than 50 meteors an hour making an appearance. Peak viewing is just before dawn.

The Perseids originate from the comet Swift-Tuttle and are considered to be the most consistent meteor shower in the astronomy world.

Brad Mastin, a park ranger with the Bureau of Land Management, gets between 12 and 24 calls from people hoping to find a dark patch of sky to view the meteors. One of the best places to view the showers is from Harper Dry Lake, he said.

“It’s got a nice good access road that all vehicles can get in on,” he said. “And it has a wide open horizon (with) no lights either. It’s a real dark area.”

Another dark place to go close to Barstow is Owl Canyon Campground, which has a playground, bathrooms and picnic tables. El Mirage Dry Lake and Tecopa Hot Springs are also good places to go. Mastin said there are a lot of star parties at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort, an hour north of Baker on Highway 127.

The Bureau of Land Management is working to identify the areas in the desert with the darkest skies, Mastin said. Some communities have complained about lights on radio towers and other tall structures because of Federal Aviation Administration regulations. The BLM is working with the FAA to minimize that intrusion, he said.“It’s part of the natural world,” Mastin said. “It’s not always the astronomy folks, it’s also people that would like to have a remote natural experience.”

Harper Dry Lake is off of State Highway 58 about 18 miles west of Barstow. Owl Canyon Campground is on Fossil Bed Road off of Irwin Road about eight miles north of Barstow.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com


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