Perseid Meteor Shower

CATCH A FALLING STAR: & Put it in Your Pocket

Ok, Redhead Betty is really not much of an astronomer- tell you the truth, I can pretty much "see" a Big Dipper in any set of 5 stars in the night sky.  I don't see is an archer, or a bear, or a fish up there, and I often mistake landing planes for the North Star. duh. You get the picture, I'm not exactly Carl Sagan. However, I do love a good meteor shower. I spent many an August night camped out in the back yard in a sleeping bag, watching for falling stars and oohing and ahhhing like mad when I spied one streaking across the sky.  And guess what? I'm going to do it again even though I'll be staying up way past my official bedtime of 9:00 8:30.

The event is called the Perseids, meteor showers that occur every year right about now. I'd love to pretend I know all about them, but I'm winging it. I went to the site EarthSky for my plagiarism information, partly because it's easy to understand and partly because I love their name {Redhead Betty grew up in Seattle, where EarthSky was a common children's name. But we digress, back to their information on the shooting star thing.}

EarthSky says "The Perseid meteor shower peaks mid-August in the morning {and when they say mornings they mean between midnight and dawn… } The Perseids are considered by many people to be the year’s best shower, and often peak at 50 or more meteors per hour. The showers tend to strengthen in number as late night deepens into midnight, and typically produce the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. Meteors are often bright and frequently leave persistent trains. Lie back and watch meteors until dawn’s light washes the stars and planets from the sky."

The Carl Sagany stuff: "These typically fast and bright meteors radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus the Hero. But you don’t need to know Perseus to watch the shower, they appear in all parts of the sky. They occur over a range of dates, because they stem from Earth’s own movement through space. As we orbit the sun, we cross “meteor streams.” These streams of icy particles in space come from comets moving in orbit around the sun. Comets are fragile icy bodies that litter their orbits with debris. When this cometary debris enters our atmosphere, it vaporizes due to friction with the air. If moonlight or city lights don’t obscure the view, we on Earth see the falling, vaporizing particles as meteors".  {Whew, now we have the short answer for "what's a meteor Mom?"}

Tips for watching in Hingham: Most important, a dark sky. Wander out into your back yard, head to the golf course, head up to Turkey Hill, or park somewhere dark and watch from the hood of your car {just don't end up in the police blotter.} If you feel the need to pack gear, a blanket, a thermos with a hot drink, and maybe binoculars for pretending that you can actually locate Orion. Dress warmly, even our summer nights can be chilly, especially in the hours before dawn when the most meteors should be flying.

Are the predictions reliable? "Although astronomers have tried to publish exact predictions in recent years, meteor showers remain notoriously unpredictable. Your best bet is to plan to spend at least an hour reclining comfortably while looking up at the sky".

Betty sees no downside to this adventure. A dark sky, a blanket, a thermos of adult beverages, and an hour spent looking up at the night sky?…We may take a liking to this astronomy stuff*.

 

*The South Shore has an astronomy association, find it here.

 

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