Friday, August 14, 2009

Starlight....Starbright....or Meteor Shower

Last night was the peak night of the Perseid meteor shower and I was determined to get a glimpse. I am not really that into astronomy and certainly not since I have lived in London , as you can barely see the North Star on clear night let alone any stars, let alone shooting stars. The best view I have ever had of the star system was on a clear night sky was in 2003 in the South Australian desert where I headed for my honeymoon, with Mark (obviously) and some Canadian friends Bob and Shawna. We were staying near Wilpena pound in a tiny one pub, and nothing else, town called Parachilna.

One night we drove a couple of miles away from the pub, so it was completely pitch blackness once we turned off the car, to sit on the car bonnet and watch the stars. I must say it was very beautiful and every star in the southern hemisphere was clearly visible. The moment was shattered when we saw a light coming at us from the highway and thought a road train was going to hit us, as we could see its headlights coming across the plains from about 20 mile away, we had a good 20 minutes before it was anywhere near us.

Sigh. Well no bright starlight skies in London at all. Last night it was still a bit cloudy after some evening rain but lots of breaks in it so I thought I’d have a try to see if I could have a glimpse of the meteor shower. I went outside our flat to the back car park and looked towards the north eastern horizon.

I must have been out there about 15 minutes craning my neck and starting to get a bit unsure if I had seen one or not. I kept seeing an occasional flicker of light, but could never be sure if it was a plane or a star peeking out from the clouds, but just after that my patience was rewarded when a meteor shot out of the Northen sky, all doubts faded and I was chuffed that I had finally seen one. It was easily spotted and was like a very large close shooting star, impossible to miss. I waited in the hopes of seeing more, but alas the clouds folded in thicker and well that was that.

For some information;

The Perseid shower occurs each year when the Earth passes through a stream of debris shed by the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 130 years or so and last passed through the inner solar system in 1992. According to a report in National Geographic News, this year, from any vantage point in the world, you might see more than 80 meteors an hour streak across the sky during the best viewing time, when the moon’s glare will be weakest-late night on August 11and into the wee hours of August 12, local cloud and lighting conditions permitting.

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