12 August, 2011

Dial M For Meteor

We are a few weeks into Leo, August is aging, and the excitement is peaking. That can mean only one thing: we’re getting close to the Perseid meteor showers, a celestial light show of what many call falling or shooting stars. I like to think of it as The Universe's birthday present to me, but I'm happy to share it with all the other Leos.

What follows is mostly gleaned from the web.

The Perseid meteor shower is annual, extremely regular in its timing, and often visible for weeks in the late summer sky. It's named after the constellation Perseus, located in roughly the same point of the night sky from which it seems to originate. That's a useful naming convention, but not very accurate!.

The source of the Perseid meteor shower is actually debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle. Every year, the earth passes through the debris cloud left by the comet, and the earth's atmosphere is bombarded by what are popularly known as falling stars.

This year peak viewing should occur on August 12th and 13th beginning around 9:30 pm EDT and growing more spectacular in the early morning hours (until dawn). The moon, unfortunately, is full on the 13th, so there will be moonlight to interfere with the faint meteors. Even then, the moon sets around 8:00 pm EDT in New York. The shower should reach its peak in the hours after midnight with a maximum of a few dozen meteors visible per hour.

Look toward the horizon at the constellation Perseus rising in the northeast sky. 

The lucky viewer might even catch one. If you do, put it in your pocket and never let it fade away.

Bring a lawn chair and bottled water. Maybe something stronger. If you wish, add a camera and tripod. I suppose you could just bring a blanket and someone you love. And ... if you’re not with the one you love, you might try loving the one you're with. If you do either, however, you run the risk of missing the whole thing.

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