Posted by: T. Boyd | August 11, 2009

On, Comets! On Showers!… Dash Away All!

The title is a little corny, but it’s appropriate for the dogs days of August. Each year we celebrate our older son’s birthday on August 11. For years we went out on that night to observe one of the most reliable meteor showers of the year, the Perseid Meteor Shower.

Great Comet of 1882 - Used by permission of WikiPedia

Great Comet of 1882 - Used by permission of WikiPedia

This light show of “shooting stars” is the dust left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle first named after two astronomers that “discovered” it in 1862. It returned 130 years later in 1992, and is now thought to be the same
comet seen in 69 BC and AD 188 by the Chinese.

I will write more details about comets and meteors later when there will be another major meteor shower this fall and the readers can prepare to see it. Right now I will relate my wife’s version of our summer experiences. She writes:

“In the late night of Aug. 11 we customarily marked the occasion by lying on the ground counting meteors. Previous to going out we would darken the house to get our night vision going. Dad put out a blanket on the ground and summoned us.

“No flashlights were permitted, and getting into position in the dark was challenging. It took a few minutes for meteors to become more important than elbows and blanket share, but when we settled in, the event was memorable. Some of us took our pillows. It was always hot, often damp, and usually buggy.

“Our dog Penny licked our faces and was generally delighted that we were at last seeing the appeal of the outdoors after dark. Each of us wanted to see the most meteors, and we called out and pointed, all the while keeping track of our own personal total.

“We seemed to do best when we simply relaxed and didn’t try to focus too much on any particular area of the sky. Every once in a while, there would be a really spectacular one that seemed to streak across the whole sky. These brought oooh’s and wow’s and a sense that we were sharing something very special indeed.

“The boys and I usually lasted about 30-45 minutes before the bug repellent gave out completely, and the fans inside the house became irresistible. But Dad stayed out for usually another hour. His description at breakfast the next morning was a bit like a fisherman’s description of the one that got away.”

Her story makes me want to try again this year. So on Tuesday and Wednesday, weather permitting, I will probably take my truck out to a treeless site and try to count the meteors as I lie in the bed of the truck. I’ll report my score next week . [Author notes: both nights were cloudy and rainy, so I saw nothing.  But several friends in other states saw them.]

More about our Father’s glorious creation, about comets and meteor showers, can be found at BrightMysteries.net, or TinyURL.com/BrtMys, and you can write Boyd at BrightMysteries@verizon.net.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: