When: Thu., Aug. 12, 9-11 p.m. 2010
Pity space dust: doomed to trace a lonely vector in utter silence, perchance to spy a blue planet where the elements have arranged themselves into felicitous patterns, like peaches and kittens and outdoor film screenings. There's an understandable pull. But try to join the fun, and find that all that cheery atmosphere has a rough side. Rub against it at thousands of miles an hour, and it's like the little brown strip on a matchbook.
Every 130 years, the comet Swift-Tuttle barrels through our neighborhood, leaving a trail of little specks. Mid-August is when we sweep through the densest part of the trail, giving a dependable light show that's usually the brightest and most active meteor shower of the year. It peaks tonight, and with the newish crescent moon leaving the stage by 10 p.m. and with cloud cover permitting, it should be a good year for the Perseids. You'll need to get away from city lights, preferably by going north, since the constellation Perseus, from which direction the shower comes, rises in the northeast at 11 p.m. The meteors come about once a minute, so find a comfortable place to sit or lie back. Best viewing starts at midnight and peaks just before dawn.
If you'd like to gather with other viewers, join UNC's Morehead Planetarium and CHAOS (Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society) at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area from 9–11 p.m. They'll bring the telescopes. —Marc Maximov