A spectacular Perseid meteor shower is upon us, until August 14. The skies are especially dark during this phase of the new moon, its slender crescent just peeking above the horizon toward dawn. This only occurs every couple or three years, due to the Earth’s orbit around the sun. Late in the evening, observers can watch as the bits of cosmic debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle begin to rain from their radiant point in the constellation Perseus. No telescopes or other special equipment are needed – only a sky away from city lights.
The astronomer Ptolemy listed Perseus in the second century A.D. The constellation was named after the first hero of classical Greek mythology, and most of these meteoroids have been part of the comet for thousands of years. As I watch these “fireballs” streak across the sky with B, I’m awestruck. Here, we look at the stardust we came from. After we are gone, when our bodies return to the cosmos, this is the star-stuff we will again become.