Random AsidesScience

Don’t Forget about the Perseids!

No time for a lengthy post this morning, just a reminder that the brilliant Perseid meteor shower is going on right now as I type! The Perseids are dust and debris flying off the comet Swift-Tuttle, and every year around this time the Earth passes through the cloud. To us, it looks like the meteors are coming from the constellation Perseus, hence the name, but in Medieval Europe they were called the Tears of St. Lawrence, the patron saint of librarians who was beheaded in early August of the year 258.

Anyway, get yourself to a dark location free of clouds and enjoy the show. You don’t need a telescope or binoculars, just the fortitude to stay awake until prime viewing time around 2 a.m. — that’s after the moon has set but still during the time when your side of the planet is plowing face-first into the river of dust. I plan to be stumbling out of a club in Cambridge at about that time, so here’s hoping the thunderclouds that have plagued Boston the past week finally decide to take their leave. Click the pic below to see a bigger shot of a Perseid meteor from 2000, over on the fabulous Astronomy Picture of the Day.

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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8 Comments

  1. Drat! It’s a partly cloudy forecast for me. The weather folks have been failing tremendously with their predictions of rain lately, so perhaps there’s still hope to catch a glimpse of librarian protector tears.

    Although, I thought St. Lawrence was said to have been grilled to death, being one of the more gruesome and distinct, and therefore memorable and fascinating (to me), modes of ‘martyrdom’ along with: being shot full of arrows, breast torture, and violent tooth removal to name a few.

    Mmm-mmm! Tales of torture and human barbecue! Now if that just doesn’t scream ‘beautiful meteor shower’ I don’t know what does.

  2. Duh, totally overcast.

    [A. C. Clarke mode]
    When will they go live webcam on satellites? That would be a cool view of the showers.
    [/A. C. Clarke mode]

  3. I am sick and tired of these clouds… I haven’t been able to see a single Perseid all week. Maybe it will be clear when I am stumbling my way around at 2 AM.

  4. Bah! Set my alarm for 2am and it was too overcast to see anything.

    Now I’m thinking these “Perseids” are just a conspiracy by Big Science to deprive me of sleep.

  5. I heart Astronomy Picture of the Day.

    I’ve been checking in there on a fairly regular basis for months, and I really love seeing what they post. It makes me feel small. In a good way.

    And the Perseids are one of the absolute BEST reasons to have an August birthday. The whole solar system is celebrating me! (And Rystefn.)

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