Saturday, August 11, 2007

Perseid Meteror Showers - See them tonight!

It's August and it's time for the Perseid meteor showers! Of course, it's easiest to view these celestial sights from a dark country sky but you can see them even in the city. You just won't see all of them unfortunately due to the city light.

A little interesting history on these showers. August is known as the month of "The Tears of St. Lawrence." Laurentius, a Christian, was supposedly martyred by the Romans in 258 AD on an iron outdoor stove. During his torture, he cried out:

"I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other."

The Saint's death was commemorated on his feast day, Aug. 10. And the abundance of shooting stars seen evrey year between approximately Aug. 8 and 14 have come to be known as St. Lawrence's "fiery tears."

Rather than 'tears', these meteors are actually the remains left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle.

Discovered in 1862, and most recently observed in 1992, this comet takes approximately 130 years to circle the Sun. And, like the Tempel-Tuttle comet in November leaves debris to create the Leonid Meteors, Comet Swift-Tuttle produces a similar trail along its orbit to cause the Perseids.

So every year during mid-August, when the Earth passes close to the orbit of Swift-Tuttle, the material left by the comet from its previous visits slams into our atmosphere at approximately 37 miles per second (60 kps) and creates bright streaks of light in our midsummer night skies.

Kind of reminds me of the old, old movie -- Day of the Triffids but hopefully will be much safer to watch than those movie meteor showers!

The best viewing time will be after midnight so get out a lawn chair, sit back, and have some good, science-y entertainment

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