RALEIGH — If you would like to see the stars -- the kind that glittered long before Hollywood -- come outdoors at midnight for the next few nights. The year's most spectacular meteor shower is about to begin.
Each year at this time, the Earth moves through a wide band of comet dust. Because the sprays of burning comet dust appear to radiate from the northeast constellation Perseus, they are called the Perseids.
The show is so fast and furious, backyard astronomers will be able to spot the bursts faster than one a minute. Peak activity will occur between midnight and 2 a.m., when the Earth moves through the densest clumps of space debris.
In the Triangle, special events will be held in connection with the Perseids.
Saturday: 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday, the NC State physics department will hold an open house at its Reedy Creek Astronomy Site off Blue Ridge Road. The public can view the shower, and spot other heavenly sights through telescopes. Experts will be on hand to answer questions. Free. Bring picnic dinners, blankets and folding chairs.
Sunday: 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday, the Morehead Planetarium, NC Parks and Recreation Division, and Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society will stage a meteor watch at the Ebenezer Church Road Recreation Area on State Road 1008, two miles south of US 64. Free. Star charts will be provided.
Monday: 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Stevens Nature Center in Cary will stage a meteor watch. Guides will lead discussions. Lawn chairs or blankets, and binoculars are recommended. Preregister by calling 387-5980. Park at the Bond Park Boathouse off High House Road and Cary Parkway. Fee of $2 for adults; $1 for children