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Turn off your phone, gaze upwards and enjoy the Perseid meteor shower this weekend

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Montreal astronomy maven Trevor Kjorlien describes himself as a space educator. With the Perseid meteor shower expected to peak this weekend, he's eager to teach everyone about the joys of space gazing.

His company, Plateau Astro, has specialized in astronomy education and related activities for people of all ages for the last five years.

Kjorlien spoke to CTV News about the Perseid meteor shower, an annual celestial event that is active from mid-July to late August, and offered tips on how to enhance the viewing experience.

This interview has been edited for clarity and concision.

CTV: What is the Perseid meteor shower?

KJORLIEN: So during the meteor shower, what we're seeing is basically the remnants of a comet that is going around the sun. And this can take hundreds of years for it to make one circle around it. Behind the comet, it's basically leaving a trail of dust and rocks and ice. What's happening is that the earth is going around the sun, and it happens to pass through that trail of dust and rocks. And that's why the Perseid and the other meteor shower always happens about the same time of year. What we're seeing is the earth passing through this trail of little dust and rocks, and so we're seeing dust pass through Earth's atmosphere, and that's what makes these flashes of light that we see.

CTV: Will people in Montreal really be able to see it?

KJORLIEN: It's got to be clear to be able to see it. So if it's cloudy, unfortunately, it's not going to work. Tonight, Friday, August 11, it looks like it's going to be clear. And yep, certainly if you're in a dark sky area, for sure you'll see stuff. In the city, yep, you'll probably see quite a few.

Sort of the best tips I can give –probably the best time to start looking is probably around 10:30 or so. And you want to sit sort of lie flat on your back or sort of as much as you can. The important thing is you want to adjust your eyes. So you want to put away your phone. And you probably need about 15 to 20 minutes of having your eyes adjust to the darkness that is up there in the sky. You don't want to pull up your phone, because then you've got to reset the entire thing and reset your eyes. So give about 15-20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the light.

And if you can, try to look somewhat into the north, northeast part of the sky. The reason for that is we call this meteor shower the Perseids because it looks like the meteors are emanating or originating from the constellation Perseus. And so you could look anywhere in the sky if you wanted to. But, you can sort of look in that direction. And you'll see that sort of shoot from that particular region of the sky. The later you're out, the better and greater chance you'll see it. So at about midnight, 1 a.m. is probably the peak time to see it.

Some years are better than others to see the Perseids. So this year is actually really good because of the moon phase. If it's a full moon, it's kind of like a big spotlight in the sky. And so those aren't the best years to do it. This year, the moon won't rise until late, late at night, say three in the morning. So it's a great dark sky for that. This is a good, good year to see it.

CTV: You're hosting a Perseid meteor shower event on Friday, Aug. 11 - how will that work?

KJORLIEN: I'm taking people up the mountain to a spot that's above the streetlights and is facing away from downtown Montreal. So it's looking more to the west and not the east. And we'll get up there starting at about 10 p.m. 10:30 as it's dark. At around that time, that's when we'll start to see some meteors shoot by. Obviously, you're not going to get as many as if you're in a dark sky area, but for not having to leave the city, it's a pretty good show.

ASTRONOMY 101

Kjorlien said there are no spaces left for Friday's outing but if the weather doesn't cooperate he may reschedule for Sunday and spots may open up.

You can find more information about the outings and other events, activities and workshops around Montreal, here: Plateau Astro

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