Aug 11, 200602:40 PMThe Life
Aug 11, 2006 - 02:40 PMThe annual Perseid meteor shower (so named because meteors appear to emanate from the constellation Perseus) will peak tonight and tomorrow night, from 8:30-10pm.
This event is also known as "The Burning Tears of St. Lawrence."
Lawrence, a young Christian archdeacon, is said to have been martyred by the Romans in 258 AD on an outdoor gridiron. In the midst of a long night of fiery torture, Lawrence jested with his executioners: "Now you may turn me over, my body is roasted enough on this side."
The saint's death is commemorated on his feast day, August 10, so the abundant shooting stars seen annually between approximately August 8 and 14 have come to be known as St. Lawrence's "burning tears."
It is now known that comets are responsible for shedding the debris that becomes most meteor showers, and the wake of Comet Swift-Tuttle causes the Perseids. Unfortunately, the waning full moon will interfere somewhat with optimal viewing, but the Perseids have never failed to delight me.
Meteor viewing tips:
1. Get as far away from a city's light pollution as possible.
2. Take a portable reclining beach chair and/or some blankets. It might get chilly.
3. Lay down with your feet pointing northeast.
4. Don't stare in one direction - unfocus a bit, and try to maintain an awareness of the whole sky.
5. The streaking light trails may appear only at two- or three-minute intervals, but sometimes you'll see several during the space of a few seconds.
6. We like to have a one- or two-hour "meteor party" with a few close friends, and always encourage participants to call out "ooh" and "ahh" when meteors are spotted. Listening to newbies discover the wonder of a meteor shower is almost as much fun as discovering it for yourself.