It’s that Perseid Time of Year

A few choice items that I bring along for meteor watching… but all you really need is your eyes!

It’s that time of year again, the time when Earth zips through the dusty debris of comet Swift/Tuttle resulting in a pretty spiffy display of meteors flashing through the night sky for those lucky enough to have both clear AND dark skies overhead. Yes, it’s time for the annual Perseid meteor shower. This year, the peak occurs August 11/12 (late night on the 11th and early morning on the 12th), and this time there’s something a little special to watch for due to the gravity of Jupiter (thanks, buddy!)—an outburst of meteors, perhaps twice the hourly rate of most years. Usually, you can expect to see around 60 or so meteors per hour during the peak of the shower; this year we could see around 120 or more!

However, remember that ideally the sky needs to be dark. If possible, stay up late and go out after the Moon has set (around local midnight/1am). Get away from big city sky glow. Take the time to let your eyes adjust to the darkness. Then, look up… take in the whole sky… the meteors can be seen in any direction. Now, if your sky isn’t all that dark, it’s still worth going out to look. You’ll see the brighter meteors, plus the usual stars and constellations. In my backyard, I strategically position my viewing chair so that a tree blocks the nearby streetlight. It actually makes a big difference.

This year, my husband and I decided to take some time to head out in search of dark, clear skies and that 60+ peak hourly rate and possible outburst. So, tonight, our camping gear is packed, along with camera, binoculars, star charts, red flashlight, and three different kinds of mosquito repellent. Bright and early tomorrow morning we’ll head west… away from streetlights and away from city sky glow. Of course, we’ll also have to head away from clouds, and that may be the trickier bit.

For a more detailed guide to this year’s Perseids, check out Phil Plait’s post here:


The Sunday Panic

Sundays are difficult. After a leisurely breakfast, topped off with several cups of coffee and a walk around the garden, the realization hits that the weekend is almost over. No matter which way you turn, Monday looms. Even growing up, I had a problem with Sundays. Sunday was the day when visitors packed up and left, the day that we couldn’t stay up late and watch TV, the day when we had to leave the cabin by the lake and head for home, and the day when I’d realize that I’d forgotten about that five-page paper I had to to write for English class… due Monday at 9am, of course. A hollow empty sort of feeling would always settle over me by about lunchtime.

Annoying, really, since Sunday is traditionally a day of rest, a time to relax. Looking at the weekend from the Friday night perspective, it seems amazing that two whole days of free time await. Think of all the fun we’ll have! Think of all the things we’ll get done! How relaxing it will be! Then, before you know it, it’s Sunday afternoon and the panic begins.

Over the years I’ve had varying degrees of success staving off this Sunday panic. The first step is to get beyond the paralysis that inevitably occurs in the early phase of panic when you realize that you’ve got X, Y, and Z to accomplish, but really only time enough for X.  The mind will dwell on this for the rest of the day or until you give it a sound kick and make a point of doing something… just one small thing… anything that doesn’t involve worrying about how the weekend’s over and just where did all the time go anyway? Ideally, this one thing is a first step of the X, Y, and/or Z mentioned above. But even if not, even if you–like me–can find a million other things you’d rather do, do one of those!  Activity is better than paralysis. Once the body starts to move, the mind generally follows.

So, what activity did I chose on this Sunday (apart from writing this)? Well, I was going to give the gardens a much-needed weeding, but I wasn’t up to fighting the heat, the humidity, AND the mosquitoes. [There was a time when you could go out during the day and not be attacked by the nasty little biters, but no longer…] Instead, I decided to travel (just in my mind, for now) to a far-off and much cooler place with a good book–a travel guide to Scotland. It’s not really an X, Y, or Z activity, but we do need to figure out an itinerary for our trip there in October, so I think it’s legit. And so for a good 3-4 hours this afternoon I didn’t think at all about the bathrooms that need cleaning, the furniture that needs dusting, the door trim that needs painting, the chair that needs recovering, the pants that need mending…