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Make a wish: the heavens are listening

July, 2010

When you wish upon a star … and then another star … and another … when you wish upon up to 100 stars an hour, surely to heavens the odds will be in your favour.

Don’t think it can’t happen: The Perseid meteor shower will be lighting up the skies in August. Perseid was a Greek hero who made a rash promise to his brother. “Ask for anything!” he declared, and in a fine bout of sibling rivalry, his brother said: “Oh yeah? You think you’re pretty smart, huh? Bring me the head of the Gorgon Medusa.”

Despite the odds (she was known for turning people to stone, remember) Perseid did the deed and went on to become the founder of Mycenae, ancestor to the emperors of Persia, and an example to his brother of being careful what you wish for.

He also had a constellation named for him, a grouping of stars near his wife, Andromeda. The August meteor shower appears to originate near the constellation Perseid. Dust and ice breaking away from the comet Swift-Tuttle burns up in the atmosphere, 50 to 130 kilometres above the Earth.

According to NASA, the Perseid meteor shower “is one of the most consistent performers and considered by many as this year’s best shower. The meteors they produce are among the brightest of all meteor showers.”

For the best seats, get away from the city’s light pollution and consider having a nighttime picnic to celebrate the skies.

Bring bug spray, comfortable chairs, snacks and a bottle of wine – but hold the candles. Play some soft music and keep your eyes on the northeast sky.

The waxing crescent moon sets early in the evening, darkening the skies. If you can make out the Little Dipper, says, it’s dark enough.

Because the shooting stars can appear anywhere in the heavens, it’s best to leave your binoculars and telescope at home. Using just your eyes gives you a wider view.

The meteor shower peaks in the early morning hours between August 12 and 13. While you’ll probably be able to see the shower the night before and after, and any time during the night, the best viewing period is after midnight, August 13.



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