A CONCERT WITH A HEAVENLY VIEW
Music of the spheres to rhyme with music in your ears. As La Donaira vibrates full of musical stars shining bright in the constellations of the Pause Festival, the heavens shimmer full of falling stars cascading down in the Perseid meteor shower -- often the most impressive starfall of the year for the Northern Hemisphere. The shower has been active since the 17th of July and will continue until August 24th. But activity peaked this week, when the new moon cleared the stage for a spectacular performance uninterrupted by lunar radiance.
In Spanish the phenomenon is known as Lágrimas de San Lorenzo - the tears of St Lawrence – because the best viewing nights often occur around the feast day on August 10th of the Spanish saint martyred in 258 AD.
Shooting stars are caused by tiny flecks of comet hitting the earth’s atmosphere. The Perseids occur annually when the orbit of Earth crosses into the tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle.
The Perseids are named after the constellation Perseus because that is where the meteors seem to originate from when looking up at the sky.
To view the Perseids successfully it is suggested you watch from a safe rural area that is as dark as possible. The more stars you can see, the more meteors will also be visible. Needless to say, La Donaira is far better situated for stargazing than the city!
To view the Perseids at their best, you need to know when to watch. During the evening hours the radiant, the area of the sky where Perseid meteors shoot from, is located low in the northern sky. This is the worst time to try and view the shower for sheer numbers as most of the activity will occur beyond your line of sight. The few that do come your way this time of night are special. The reason is that they just skim the upper regions of the atmosphere and will last much longer than Perseids seen during the morning hours. Since they last longer they also will travel a much longer distance across the sky. Most of these “earthgrazing” Perseids will be seen low in the east or west, traveling north to south. Occasionally one will pass overhead and will be unforgettable as you watch it shoot across the sky for several seconds. While these meteors are few, they are certainly worth the effort to try and catch. Theoretically, the best time to watch the Perseids is just before the break of dawn when the radiant lies highest in a dark sky. This is usually around 04:00 local time.
No matter the time of night, Perseid meteors can be seen in all portions of the sky. No matter which direction you look, it is advisable to aim your center of view about half-way up in the sky. Don’t look straight up as more activity is visible at lower elevations. Some observers like to view toward the constellation Perseus and the radiant. This way they can see Perseid meteors travel in all directions. The disadvantage of viewing in this direction is that the Perseid meteors will be short, especially near the radiant. The other choice is to face away from the radiant and witness longer meteors, which are more impressive. Even if the radiant is at your back, you can still distinguish Perseid meteors from others as they will all travel in the same parallel paths and will have similar velocities.