Thursday, August 12, 2004


And btw, it's Perseids time! The Perseids is a yearly meteor "shower." The "shooting stars" are old parts of the comet Swift-Tuttle (I think) whose orbit around the Sun crosses that of the Earth. So, every year around the 11th of August, the Earth passes through the debris trail left by the comet. When the pieces (most dust-sized) enter the Earth's atmosphere (basically because, as they sit there, minding their own business, the Earth rams into them), they burn up, officially becoming meteors, but better known as "falling stars." A very, very few actually make it to the ground becoming meteorites, but this is exceedingly rare.

This group of meteors is called the "Perseids" because they appear to originate from the constellation Perseus. They'll travel in all directions from that ~point, but that's approximately where they'll seem to start from.

Anyway, you've missed the "peak" (although my sources say that it's been cloudy in TN at least, so you couldn't see them anyway), but there are still plenty that will be visible over the next few nights. Actually, the best time to see them is in the morning before the Sun rises since that's the time that the Earth is actually plowing into them the most for your part of the world, but you'll be able to catch some in the evenings too, after dark (unless it's a _really_ spectacular one!).

The best thing to do is get out from the cities, into an area with little light pollution and a good view of the sky (i.e., away from trees and tall buildings or anything else that would block your view), lie on your back, and look up! Don't use telescopes or binoculars as those severely limit your view. Don't try to focus on any one area of the sky, just sorta let your eyes wander over the infinite. It helps to have at least one buddy who will lie next to you and discuss with you the profound issues of life.

Just lie back and enjoy!

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