In just 24 hours, ( Aug 12 2010) we will be treated to a cosmic light show that even Pink Floyd would be proud of. Not only will we have three planets and the crescent moon visible in the evening sky, but we will be treated to a meteor shower that is expected to be dazzling. The Opening Act is Venus, Saturn and Mars aligning with our Moon in what is considered a very rare moment. If you look to the tip of the western horizon, you may even catch a glimpse of Mercury. This planetary picture in itself would be a fabulous event to behold.
But “count your lucky stars” because we are being treated to a full view of meteor showers that will be visible from Thursday evening until Friday morning. What a Main Act! According to some experts, if the sky stays clear, we could see up to 100 meteors every hour. That’s a lot of cosmic activity for one night. But you’ll need to be in a dark area to get the full effect of this spectacular showing. Boundary Bay or Lighthouse Park anyone?
The NASA website explains that this meteor shower is being caused by the debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle. It seems that every 133 years, this comet comes through our inner solar system and spews dust and gravel behind it. When our planet goes through this debris, specks of it hit our atmosphere and burn up in flashes of light. These flashes are what we see as a meteor shower.
I wonder what our ancestors thought when they saw these cosmic wonders? We have the technology to understand these celestial events. But what did they think when they saw all these flashes of light in their skies? What would you think when the night sky suddenly began to dance?
I remember seeing my first meteor shower many years ago. A group of us were on the outskirts of Winnipeg on a farm. From dusk until dawn, the meteors just poured from the heavens. Some were quick flashes of light, some were absolutely spectacular. It seemed liked it would never end.
The philosophers would ask, “And what are we, in this great galaxy? What is our role? Why are we here?” Big questions. Watch the cosmic light show for yourself and see what answers you come up with.