Every year, I mark my calendar for the Perseid Meteor Showers. They arrive on August 12th, like clockwork, and of all the meteor showers we are treated to, this one is usually the most spectacular. And it takes place in the warmest part of the year, which is a handy little side benefit. I think of it as a free show put on by the universe.
What I like to do is go somewhere with very little ambient light. I pack a lawn chair, mosquito repellent, snacks, and sometimes cardboard to block out what light I can’t seem to avoid, and then I sit, preferably with friends, and gaze.
It’s always quite amusing when one of us sees a meteor and the others don’t. This year one of us saw one that was so spectacular it caused him to drop his beer bottle. But there were many gorgeous ones to make up for everyone else’s massive, albeit bemused, disappointment at that moment. In fact, this year I saw some of the largest ones I’ve seen in my life.
Unfortunately the smaller ones were all but impossible to see because the moon was nearly full. Nothing like a giant spotlight in the sky to block out everything else. (Next year the moon will be much more cooperative.)
But I did see something I’ve never seen before. On three separate occasions, the meteors were angled directly toward us. Because of that, instead of seeing them streak across the sky, what I saw was a large bright dot that appeared out of nowhere and was gone just as quickly. That was cool. And it made me wonder what this event looked like from the International Space Station. (Of course, there’s a video for that. You can see it here.)
I love stargazing with friends. Looking at the night sky makes my problems seem so tiny and insignificant. And it also reminds me of the glory of the natural world.
So, if you take (in) only one shower a year, make it the Perseids. It’s the best shower of all. And you don’t even have to add water.