August 13, 2012 10:25 pm

Ooooh… Ahhh… The Perseids, and Why We Keep Looking Up

Snowy Range Perseids Meteor Shower by David Kingham

A composite of 23 images taken in the Snowy Mountains in Wyoming.
(Photo: David Kingham/Flickr)

Last night, under clear skies in the northern New Jersey suburbs, my 7-year old-daughter, my wife and I lay on our backs looking up at the night sky, waiting for the Perseids. We’d been clouded out the night before, and my daughter spent all day hoping that Sunday night would be clear.

It never got all that dark – we are in the suburbs, after all – but after our neighbor obligingly turned off the floodlight on their back porch, it got dark enough.

We didn’t see 100 meteors an hour. By the time my daughter announced that she was too tired to continue, we’d seen about half a dozen or so.

But oh, what a half-dozen. Most so fast you could only really see them in memory, brief flickers. One really nice one that they both saw while I was looking someplace else. Enough, though, that my daughter could go to bed with a big smile on her face.

And that’s what I will remember most about the 2012 Perseids. Not the vibrant, 2-second burst I saw around 12:14 AM when I snuck out later. Not the last shooting star of the evening, the one that showed up just after I said, “Okay. Enough is enough. Just one more really good one.”

What I will remember forever is the night I showed my daughter her first shooting stars, and infected her with the lifelong joy we all get from just looking up and, as Neil says, basking in the majesty of the cosmos.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!

– Jeffrey Simons


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