By Sue KILPATRICK
“I have…a terrible need, shall I say the word?…of religion. Then I go out at night and paint the stars.”
— Vincent van Gogh
I am just coming down (literally) from a trip to the eastern Sierras. This return is made easier knowing I have the foothills to come home to. By the appearance of our lawn I can see the weather has been quite warm here. We had similar temperatures on our trip, except at 10,000 foot elevation the nights were a cold 45 degrees. So, snug in my down jacket, telescope in tow, our family gazed at the Milky Way and witnessed the first shooting stars of the annual Perseids meteor shower. In the true sense of the word it was truly awesome.
On the night of Aug. 12, in the hours after midnight, the Perseids Shower will peak. At this time, the Moon will be just past new (dark), so there will be no moonlight to interfere with viewing of this event. Meteors are the result of comets as they orbit the Sun leaving behind a trail of icy, dusty debris. As the Earth travels through this stream we will observe a meteor shower. So named Perseid, as it appears to fall from the constellation Persius. This year it is predicted that a few dozen shooting stars per hour will be visible to the naked eye. For optimal viewing drive away from the glow of city lights and gaze toward the northeast. From this direction in the sky, the Perseid meteors will streak across the night sky creating one of nature’s finest shows.
As this week comes to an end the temperatures will begin to cool down. Friday and Saturday expect local morning low clouds and drizzle with warm afternoon clearing. This weekend the days should not exceed 80 degrees and the nights will be in the upper 50s. The beginning of the week will bring slightly warmer weather. Overall, this summer has continued to be cooler than average. If stargazing is in your plans, Aug. 12 will be perfect for such an activity, with a high near 85 and a low around 60.
Enjoy your own Starry Night (a painting by Vincent van Gogh-1889).
Sue Kilpatrick is a longtime CV resident and amateur weather watcher. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.