Thursday, August 9, 2012

Perseid Meteor Showers Peak August 11th to the 13th - Beware of Triffids!

The Eagle Nebula which has nothing to do with Perseus,
but you must admit, makes a delightful picture!
How many wishes can you make in an hour?  Fifty? Eighty?  A hundred? You may get your chance to find out this coming weekend.  During the nights of Saturday the 11th, through Monday 13th, the Heavens rain fire over planet Earth in an annual event call the Perseid Meteor Shower.

Whenever we experience a meteor shower, and especially one that's purported to be the greatest cosmic event of our lifetime, I get nervous.  You see, I think about the old 1962 film based on the book by John Wyndham, "The Day of the Triffids."   In the story, everybody on the planet goes out to watch this once in a lifetime meteor shower, cunningly
engineered by alien plant spores called Triffids.  The meteor shower causes wide-spread blindness, making the Earth's population easy prey for slow moving, carnivorous plants.  And you think ivy is a problem.  Now, we both know that alien plant life is not planning to invade us by way of a meteor shower.  Still, every time I watch one, part of me listens for that weird, low-pitched clicking sound the Triffids made.  My husband, merry prankster that he is, does a pretty good imitation.

Back to reality.  Why is it called the Perseid Meteor Showers?
Tarot's #17, The Star from
Steampunk Tarot© by
Barbara Moore and Aly Fell

 The radiant, or origin of the shower comes from the constellation named for, Perseus, the ancient Greek hero who battled Medusa.  You can locate Perseus in the northeastern sky and its most well-known star is called, Algol.  The name, Algol comes from Arabic (the ancient study of astronomy began in the Middle East) and roughly translates as, demon's eye.  The star actually represents Medusa's eye.  (Great. Now we have carnivorous plants and Gorgons. ) Algol is actually 105 lightyears away from us.  Think about the time and distance these meteors have traveled just to put on a show for us.

The Perseid display began around July 23rd this year and the meteors, refuse from comet, Swift-Tuttle, fell at a rate of 10 meteors per hour.  As we've moved deeper into the meteor stream, the fall rate has steadily increased.  Experts predict that during the shower's peak fifty to a hundred meteors will fall per hour.  The Perseid peak runs from August 11th through the 13th this year with meteors falling at a rate of thirty-seven miles per second.   

The meteor display will be easier to see this year because the moon is in a waxing crescent phase.  This will not be the case in 2014 however, so don't let this year's shower pass you by. The best time for viewing will be in the pre-dawn hours. 
You don't need eye protection, or smoked glass to watch the meteor shower.  Just try to get away from city lights if possible.  All that's required is a pillow for your head as you lie 
back in the grass.

Below is a table of the biggest annual meteor showers.  As you can see, we still have some great cosmic fireworks remaining for this year.  Enjoy!  Oh, and keep an eye on the plant life.  :)


Name                      Month  to View



Eta Aquarids





* All the meteors you see in the sky right now may not be from the Perseid Shower.  Here's a link to why!

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