The Perseid Meteor Shower 2015

night sky stars

Last night I did something very much out of our normal – I let the kids stay up really, really late.  On purpose.  I made a batch of brownies, invited some friends to join us, grabbed a blanket and headed to a somewhat secluded spot nearby.  We ended up at a country intersection surrounded by fields.  It was dark.  No one else was around.  It was perfect.

No, we were not doing “illegal activities”, nor anything morally inappropriate.  What we were hoping to do was to see meteors from the Perseid Meteor shower, and appear to come from the Perseus constellation.  It has only been in the past hundred years or so that the connection between the Perseid meteors and a specific comment has made.

Perseid

noun Per·se·id \ˈpər-sē-əd\

:  any of a group of meteors that appear annually about August 11

If we had planned ahead more than vaguely me saying we were going to do it a few days ago, letting the kids know at lunch time what was going to happen that night, and then texting friends 3 hours before the even to invite their family to join us, we probably could have found a slightly darker location.  The initial plan was to head for the local country airport.  However once we got there we realized the silly people actually left two security lights and the runway lights on at night.  Well, there went that idea of a nice wide open flat place to check out the event.  Not ones to be detoured, we got back in the car and drove till we were at a nice dark intersection with no one around … the kids were a bit spooked by this fact, pointed out very clearly by Jack.  Thanks, Bud. Very helpful.

Several people have asked me how I came to hear about this annual event.  Honestly, I am not sure.  I think it was online somewhere this past weekend and it peaked my interest.  Not only was I interested in seeing it, but I figured the kids would also like to see ‘stars’ streak across the sky.  With nothing on the calendar for today, last night was a perfect night to let them stay awake hours past their normal bedtime.

Surely I scored some Parent Of The Year points from the kids for this one.  If I did, though, they were taken away this morning when I made them actually do their morning routines and put away their clean clothes, even though they were tired.

This meteor shower is an annual event that can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere, though it does not always correspond with a clear, moon-less night.  The Perseid meteor shower happens at almost the same time each year, as the Earth’s orbit intersects with the path taken by the Swift-Tuttle comet, a comet that has been ‘discovered’ several times over human history.  The meteors are particles left in the path of the comet’s 133 year orbit which are pulled closer by our gravity and burn up when they come into contact with our atmosphere.

In 2016, the comet should be close enough to see with the naked eye, though I think binocular or a telescope would make it even cooler.  (Hmm. Not sure I will tell the kids that one, or else I will hear about it for the next 10 years.  Let’s just keep it our secret for now. Okay?)

It really was an amazing sight last night.  Even with our less than ideal setting, only a mile or two outside of town and the light from surrounding towns visible in the sky, we were able to see meteors shooting quickly across the sky.  Most of them you would miss if you blinked, or made you think you were seeing things.  There were others, though, that were larger or closer, who lasted longer and left a trail behind them.

If I had been out there by myself or only with adults I think we would have stayed longer, possibly even falling asleep looking up at the stars.  As it was, the younger kids were running through dark fields throwing needed items into the fields screaming and running in circles falling into ditches and hitting metal poles tired.  My favorite quote was from Jack, “But when are we going to get to see meteors?  We didn’t see any?!”  After an hour of telling a kid to lay down and look up, how do you answer that question?  Here is the route I took – “Oh, that’s a shame.  Now buckle up, and look out the window as we drive home.”

Last night (August 12th) or the early hours of this morning (August 13th) were the optimal times to watch the show.  However, there will still be some tonight and the next consecutive days, though not nearly as many of last night.  Otherwise you might want to add it to next year’s calendar.

When George heard this his response was, “We get to go watch meteors again tonight?!?!?”  I took this opportunity to very clearly state my position.  “NO!  It happens every year and you will get to see them a year from now.  I will need that long to recover.”  Sometimes plainly spoken honesty is the route to take, leaving no room for argument.