Friday, 9 August 2013

Stardust memories.

 I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself as I just got back from doing a blood test. While I was waiting, I was thinking of the old Tour de France joke;

It was a long, hard mountain stage, the winner staggered into Drug Control, to give his sample. He took a long time in the cubicle.

An hour or so later;

“It’s alright, Monsieur, the test is negative.” It was the analyst with the result. “Oh by the way, congratulations, you are having twin boys”.

Mind you, when I tried getting someone else to give the blood for me back in May (The 13th of 13th), it didn’t work out for me– it turned out they were more ill than I was.

Anyway, even though my plans tend to go wrong on me these days, I’ve planned out more than a few adventures over the next week and a bit.

Here’s one you can share with me;

Next week its time for ‘The Perseids’ to visit us again. This is a shower of shooting stars, due to peak around the 12th of August, near dawn.

Don’t worry about that time; it’s not an exact science.

Millennia ago, a comet passed earth by, leaving dust and debris from its tail as it went. Every year we pass through this trail and if we’re lucky we get to see a shower of shooting stars, which seem to radiate from a point near the constellation, Perseus. It’s just grains of stardust, burning up in the atmosphere.

I usually go out about midnight and if it’s a clear night I go somewhere as far away from lights as I can find and then just look up into the sky. The nearer you are to the peak, the more often you are likely to see one. Then when you’ve located where it came from, focus in to that part of the sky. Use your peripheral vision, they come out of nowhere and are gone before you can get a fix - it's just luck.

When you catch sight of the first one, you will be hooked for life.

Even better, once in a forever you may catch sight of a ‘grazer’ or what is sometimes called a ‘fireball’. Normally they burn up really high in the atmosphere, miles away.  I said, these things are tiny - grains of dust ranging up to a grain of sand at most – but sometimes they are bigger. Sometimes, one seems to come in at a very low angle or is at the end of its journey. Then you can see a tiny but distinctly burning fireball and you get the illusion that it’s up close. And then it’s really WOW! time a short firework display.

My advice, for what it’s worth is to keep an eye out from the 11th onwards, when it’s a clear night go out watching. I’m not sure whether I’m up to doing an all-nighter. It’s been cloudy for me the last couple of years, anyway. 

But for a glimpse of stardust?

We’ll see.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

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