The Perseids is a meteor shower associated with the Swift-Tuttle Comet, so-called because the point they appear to come from lies in the constellation Perseus. The stream of debris is called the Perseid Cloud and stretches along the orbit of the comet Swift-Tuttle, most of the dust in the cloud today is around a thousand years old.

For more than two-thousand years people have been observing this celestial phenomenon, with the earliest information on this meteor shower coming from ancient Chinese astronomers.

Roman Catholics refer to the Perseids as the “tears of St. Lawrence” because of the proximity of their occurrence with the feast day observed on the tenth day of August, the day Lawrence of Rome was martyred.

The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the peak in activity being the mid-August, depending on the particular location of the stream. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches sixty or more per hour. While they can be seen all across the sky, because of the path of Swift-Tuttle’s orbit Perseids are primarily visible in the northern hemisphere.

Early this morning, while the distant Dawning was still only a thin ribbon of deep violet upon the faraway horizon, I took a few precious minutes of leisure in the midst of my night’s tasks and obligation to lift my gaze towards the starry heavens.

I found a soft grassy spot in the clearing and laid back with my head resting in my interlaced fingers, I kicked off my sandals and stretched out my legs. A dewy fog rolled over the treetops, shushed down into the nearby valley by warm intermittent breezes.

From where I was resting, I could hear a pack of coyotes howling and snarling at each other as well as the first low tremulous rumblings of trucks over the highway. ‘Twas yet night, and morning also…  a vague and tentative time of day, bearing all the marks of an expired evening and an arisen morning.

My heart leapt at the first faint streak that passed through the sparse schematic of constellations that garnish the night sky. It seemed almost an illusion, a trick of the eyes squinting in the darkness…  I began to question if I had truly seen anything, when I saw another sweeping tendril of light cross the belt of Orion.

As the minutes trickled by, the falling stars wept for a dying night.

Now I am home, regaling my children with what I saw the previous night…  my son’s bronze-colored eye widening at the thought of stars falling from the sky.

I will end this writing here, take him by the hand and into our backyard…  where I hope to show some small pittance of the wonders that surround us.


One thought on “Perseids

  1. Glad you took some time out to look upwards – and to share what you saw with your family – the night sky is an amazing thing.

    Some time ago I read or heard somewhere (can’t remember where) that apparently a large number of people never bother to lift their eyes more than 15 degrees above the horizon. Complete strangers to the wonders of the sky. How they’re missing out!

    Didn’t get to see the Perseids this year because of cloud cover. But your description of meteor traces is beautiful & spot on.

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