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14 August 2011

the Perseids meteor shower free night sky show the other night

Click image to enlarge.
A couple of times every year as we orbit the Sun (in an elliptical but nearly circular orbit), Planet Earth (an oblate spheroid) careens through a swarm of debris believed to be dragged through space by comets. 
There's a Luck Factor in the equation. If the night sky is overcast (as it was over my house, and that sucked), you don't see much of anything.
But if the night sky is clear -- as it was a few nights ago over Stonehenge -- the sky can be filled for hours with spectacular shooting stars, several or dozens every minute. The flaming show are the space rocks encountering Earth's atmosphere and growing superhot from friction. Almost all are tiny -- pebble-sized at most -- and quickly incinerated.
These yearly meteor showers are named for the constellations from which they seem to burst forth. The other night we were gifted with the Perseids, because they emerge from the constellation Perseus, named for the guy who sliced off Medusa's head (with wriggling snakes where her hair should have been). 
Oh, don't look directly at Medusa's face, because she's so hideous you'll instantly turn to stone.
Generally the Leonid meteor shower, which originates in the constellation Leo every year near 17 November, displays the richest shooting star show of all meteor showers.
If you are a parent or guardian of young children, and you did not wake the curtain-climbers around midnight and hustle them outside in their pajamas to see this fantastic free show, I am dropping a dime on you with the Child Welfare Authorities. The kids should be forcibly removed and sent to live with someone who loves children more than you do. My guess is The Dougherty Siblings were never awakened to see a meteor shower.
I've never tried to take a meteor shower photo, but my guess is you just put the camera solidly on the tripod and leave the aperture open for 5 or 10 minutes or a half-hour to collect this kind of crowd of flaming meteors. If you're just looking, you don't need any optical equipment. If you aim yourself at Perseus, the meteors seem to emerge from one single point and fly toward you. If you face in the opposite direction, the shooting stars fly over your shoulders and spread out as they pass you and head toward the far horizon.
When we've stayed up and gone to find a good place to see the show -- a school parking lot usually -- you meet a dozen or two neighbors you never met or knew during the daytime, and as you watch the shooting stars whiz by -- with OOHs and WOWs -- you chat a little. The parking lot is like a trap for Smart and Curious People, your neighbors who, with their kids, want to Take Back The Night Sky and all its mysterious and beautiful miracles. You and these other friendly strangers have joined the Meteor Shower Society. Dues are free.


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This will not have effect as a matter of fact, that's what I suppose.