As August approaches, imprinted longing for meteors follow. Youthful recollections ebb and flow, the one constant is Perseid. These were the stars I wished upon, my source of wonder, the reason I gazed at night’s sky. Perseid lent perspective to questions I hadn’t asked, cementing the essence of who I became. Effortless memory presses damp grass against my back, heart beating to the pulse of cricket song. Swaddled in darkness, even the wind waits for Perseid.
Every year between July 17 and August 24, Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Swift-Tuttle has a wonky oblong orbit, completing one orbit around the sun every 133 years. during those years ST travels from beyond Pluto to inside Earth’s orbit. Whenever ST crosses the inner solar system heat from our sun “melts” comet ice adding cosmic debris to ST’s tail. Little break away pieces, most no larger than grains of sand slam Earth’s upper atmosphere at 210,000 kilometers an hour – the Perseids have arrived.
This year the Perseids peak August 11-13. Early northern hemisphere evening finds radiant Perseus low on the horizon, if you’re lucky a rare “Earthgrazer”might forge a horizontal blaze across the horizon. As evening becomes night the radiant point rises, Perseid abandons rehearsal for the main event. Perseid’s tantalizing sets play through the night – from midnight till first light’s encore, expect 50-100 meteors an hour.
This year, a waning crescent moon won’t come up until just before sunrise, setting a dark stage for Perseid glory. It doesn’t matter if radiant Perseus eludes you, Perseids knock loudly. Noted for being exceptionally fast and bright, their ionized gas trails often hang in the sky for wondrous moments. Dismiss concentrating on specific direction – find a dark place, lay back and open your eyes to the cosmos. Perseid will find you.