I really enjoyed the Perseid meteor shower and hope you had a chance to see it, too. My daughter Maria came over and we reclined in the driveway talking and watching quietly till 1 in the morning. Because I fiddled with the camera she saw a few more meteors than I. Her final count was 25 Perseids and one sporadic meteor and mine 20 (plus one sporadic). But by the time I put everything away and gave a last look, I had added three more to make 24.
We were grateful that the fire haze lessened enough by Sunday night enough to see the Milky Way overhead, and though the shower was still compromised, neither of us minded. As with all showers, there were 5-minute-long gaps when no meteors appeared. You’d start to think that maybe it was time for bed when a brilliant flash of light would shoot down the Milky Way and banish the thought.
The Perseids were swift and white; the bright ones, of which there were easily half-a-dozen, left chalky streaks that faded a second later. Cicadas provided the background music for the evening. Warm temperatures meant a lot of busy insects. Their scritchings and scratchings blended into a steady, high-pitched buzz which reminded Maria of the electric hum from a bad fluorescent light.
I made one wish upon a falling star I knew would not come true, but I wanted it to anyway — that my mom could still be with us.
After the pleasant Perseids, I bet you’re ready for the Geminids, the year’s next big shower — bigger actually than the Perseids. It gets going on December 13-14. Mark your calendar and stock up on hand warmers.
Smoke from forest fires is still a problem both day and night but not so much that you can’t still see the brighter stars, planets and the moon. Good thing because tonight (August 14) the 3-day-old moon float about 6.5° above Venus low in the western sky about an hour after sundown. Binoculars will give a wonderful view of the ghostly earthshine (reflected light from the Earth) that fills out the moon’s shape, while a small telescope will easily reveal that star-like Venus looks exactly like a half-moon.
Further left or east — about 3½ fists from Venus — look for Jupiter and the fainter star Zubenelgenubi, second-brightest star in Libra the Scales. Zubenelgenubi has a fainter companion star to its right (west) you can easily see in binoculars. On Aug. 15 and 16, Jupiter passes closest to the star this year, with just 0.5° separating them. They won’t be this tight again until December 2029.