Today, August 11, every year, marks one of our most anticipated natural events: the Perseids meteor shower. After the sun goes down, look into the northeast sky close to Cassiopeia. This constellation is shaped like a flattened W. It rotates around the North Star directly opposite the Big Dipper. Trace a line from the two stars at the bottom end of the Big Dipper to the North Star and on to Cassiopeia and the meteor shower.
This year should be especially good because the moon won’t be out. It was just a sliver this morning. The meteor shower should peak between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, coinciding with the new moon. With no moon in the sky, even the dimmest meteors will be visible if you can get yourself far away from man-made light pollution.
But don’t wait for tomorrow night to get outside, it might be cloudy tomorrow. I once spent a cloudy August night laying in a park in Chisinau, Moldova, hoping for the clouds to lift so we could all see meteors. At least I convinced a bunch of city folk to get outside and watch the sky at night.
It’s just fun to just lay out watching the sky on a beautiful summer night. Go out tonight and tomorrow night to double your chances of seeing some great meteors.
Being in an isolated part of an isolated county of an rural state, Meadowcreek is a great place for night sky watching. No light pollution. The sky is so clear here that we’ve even had a University inquire about putting up a remote controlled telescope.
All we have to do is find a space away from trees with a clear view of the sky. Usually the best place is the middle of one of the meadows in our bottoms. Sometimes we get a beautiful fog filling up the valley in the evening. It’s a spectacular sight to sit on the Resiliience House porch eating dinner and watching the fog flow in. Luckily for meteor watching, August is dry enough that we don’t often have such fogs.
It might be nice to float on an air mattress in the Blue Hole and watch meteors. I’ll probably just lay out a blanket on the grass above the Salamander pond. It’s such fun to fall asleep and then wake up to bright meteors streaking across the sky.
I try to ignore the astronomer’s explanation that the meteors are pieces of a comets’ tail that burn up when they hit our planet’s atmosphere. I’d much rather believe they are good luck and that the more you see, the better the next year will be. I like the tradition of some Japanese of opening your collar to admit the good luck when you see a meteor.
As I’m writing this, I’m watching a beautiful sunrise and wondering why we like sunrises, sunsets, full moons, thunderstorms and meteor showers so much. But I don’t wonder for long, I just enjoy the sunrise. Just as I’ll enjoy the Perseid meteor shower tonight and tomorrow night.