star parties

Perseus it turns out, being a son of Zeus, had a lot of power but evidently did not know it since he went to great lengths with powers borrowed from other gods: winged sandals from Hermes and the shield of Athena, to avenge his mother’s captor, marrying Andromeda along his odyssey way.

They were immortalized as stars. Well, constellations.

I once had a star named for my son. It’s a thing you can do. Of course, they don’t really name the star but you get this official-looking certificate showing the sector of sky and coordinates of the star that makes you think so.

images.duckduckgo.jpgnot my photo

The Perseids meteor shower began on July 26 this year and will go through the month of August. The peak of the shower is this weekend, a double bonus because there is a new moon so no celestial light “pollution”. Even in cities where there is a lot of light these can be seen.

The shower is actually caused by the comet Swift-Tuttle. Its orbit goes through our atmosphere this time of year and the debris, seeming to come from the Perseus constellation, causes the shower. This one is famous for its large meteors and earth-grazers, fireballs that move slowly through the atmosphere leaving a golden trail.

I am not a night owl and the best time to watch for these is between midnight to just before dawn. For the U.S. they begin to appear above the northeast horizon and around 3 a.m. will occupy the radiant of the entire night sky. They are very dramatic. Like the Leonids in winter. Winter because there is low to no humidity and the atmosphere is much clearer.

My family and I are enjoying our yearly week at the beach beginning today. I fully intend to plant myself out on the sky-dark beach late tomorrow night in a nice beach chair with maybe a beach towel if it gets cool (unlikely) and watch. Even though meteors can be seen pretty much any given night during the year these are most visible. There are between 60-80 meteors per hour at the peak time.

So I hope the sand crabs decide I am just too big an object to drag home for a midnight snack.

“He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.”  –Psalm 147:4-5

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