Star Trails, the Perseid Meteor Shower and the Tears of St. Lawrence
August 13, 2007
2009 Update: The best time to watch the Persied meteor shower in Michigan is TONIGHT (August 11-12, 2009).
The peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower was last night. Postpurchase says he had intended to catch the peak of the perseid meteor shower last night but (alas) the clouds decided not to cooperate. Although last night was the peak, you can see them tonight and I saw a bunch early this morning! (in fact, there was a recent report of Northern Lights at our Northern Lights Log on Absolute Michigan)
SPACE.com has this (and more) to say about the Perseid meteor shower:
Every August, when many people are vacationing in the country where skies are dark, the best-known meteor shower makes its appearance…
The event is also known as “The Tears of St. Lawrence.”
Laurentius, a Christian deacon, is said to have been martyred by the Romans in 258 AD on an iron outdoor stove. It was in the midst of this torture that Laurentius cried out: “I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.”
The saint’s death was commemorated on his feast day, Aug. 10. King Phillip II of Spain built his monastery place the “Escorial,” on the plan of the holy gridiron. And the abundance of shooting stars seen annually between approximately Aug. 8 and 14 have come to be known as St. Lawrence’s “fiery tears.”
Wikipedia’s Persied entry adds viewing tips:
The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the greatest activity between August 8 and 14, peaking about August 12. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. They can be seen all across the sky, but because of the path of Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, Perseids are mostly visible on the northern hemisphere.
To experience the shower in its full, one should observe in the dark of a clear moonless night, from a point far outside any large cities, where stars are not dimmed by light pollution. The Perseids have a broad peak, so the shower is visible for several nights. On any given night, activity starts slowly in the evening but picks up by 11 p.m., when the radiant gets reasonably high in the sky. The meteor rate increases steadily through the night as the radiant rises higher, peaking just before the sky starts to get light, roughly 1½ to 2 hours before sunrise.