Catch A Falling Star…

One of my favourite pastimes is star gazing. I love staring up into the night sky and observing, trying to get my head around the vast distances involved and wondering just what is out there. On a clear summer’s night you might often find me stretched out on the patio lounger and gazing upward. I know most of the constellations although not many of the actual star names.

One of the biggest problems for me is light pollution. I live in the middle of a town, surrounded by houses and street lights and solar garden lights although the council here are replacing the street lamps with the kind that have no upward directional light and they are turning many off after midnight, but it still means only the very brightest stars are visible.

What I’m actually watching for is shooting stars, or falling stars. Believe it or not, these can be seen almost every night; you just need to be looking in the right place at the right time and with such a vast sky up there, catching one is very much a matter of luck; there are some people that have never observed one (ie one of my sisters), and others who think they are so rare they never bother to look up.

Meteor

Photo courtesy of BBC

I always sleep with the curtains open so if ever I wake up in the night, I can stare out in the hope of seeing one of these amazing streaks of light caused by tiny bits of space dust or rock, properly called meteoroids. As they hit the Earth’s atmosphere most burn up in this marvellous short-lived display zipping across the heavens. Sometimes, if you are very lucky, you can actually hear them.

Several times during the year we are treated to spectacular meteor showers when these can be seen falling in vast numbers. Now this is something I really would love to see because you can guarantee whenever such an event is taking place, good old England is cloud covered. The most I’ve seen in one night is ten, and that was over the space of a two hours.  The best of these showers takes place every August, the Perseids, but, yes, you’ve guessed it, we’ve just had one of the coldest Augusts on record with rain and cloud almost every day and night and not a shooting star to be seen. Typical!

leonids-japan2_1461128i

Photo courtesy of The Telegraph

One of the greatest pleasures for me when going on holiday is to be somewhere secluded, where there is little or no light pollution and spend the warm night outside with a glass of something in hand, watching the stars, on the lookout, often hopes raised then dashed when the flashing, winking light zooming across the sky turns out to be nothing more than an aeroplane. And if I do see a shooter, no doubt my sisters are sitting with their backs to it or looking in the wrong direction for those few seconds of time the shooting star is visible.

So you can understand why next week I am so looking forward to jetting off to the Canary Islands for a week, sisters in tow, to a hotel situated some distance out of town, right on the beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We shall be stargazing every night and hopefully this year, my sister will catch a falling a star. I wonder if she will make a wish.

Annual Meteor Showers
Name               When They Occur
Quadrantids         January 1-6
April Lyrids          April 19-24
Eta Aquarids        May 1-8
Delta Aquarids    July 15- August 15
Perseids                 July 25 – August 18
Orionids                 October 16-27
Taurids                   October 20-November 30
Leonids                   November 15-20
Geminids               December 7-15

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10 responses to “Catch A Falling Star…

  1. Come and visit us here in Italy! Very little light pollution. 🙂

  2. Thanks, Siobhan, I might just take you up on that. Funnily enough, am planning a trip to Italy next year with Avis. Fingers crossed we make it. 🙂

  3. You would be a candidate for a sky light over your bed. 🙂 Our weather is much like yours so we manage to miss night displays too. My all time favorite was years ago when the Northern Lights made an appearance in our skies. We were going home late and lived a ways out so no light pollution. It’s a sight you never forget. Saw them again on a trip north but they weren’t the same.

    • Would love a skylight above the bed, Lavada. We had display of Northern Lights here earlier this year. Yet again, it was tipping with rain here so nothing seen. I keep hoping to see them. 🙂

  4. I used to love watching for falling stars! I haven’t done it for a while. I don’t have a comfortable lounge chair to lay back in. (It’s an age and creaky bones thing.) I’m going to have to make that a must for next summer, though, so I can star-gaze. I really appreciate the list, too. I’m printing it to remember. 🙂 Thanks, Kit!

  5. Hope the list is useful, Laurie. I can’t lay out gazing too long nowadays as it’s normally too chilly at night here but intend to next week when away on holiday… if the mosquitoes leave us in peace, that is! 🙂

  6. I’m one of those people who thought shooting stars were relatively rare, but now I’ll be watching more avidly! Like you, I love watching the sky at night and often wrap up and sit (with a glass of something warming) on the bench in the garden. Always puts things into perspective.

    Have a really fab holiday and happy stargazing!

  7. thanks for the list!! I am lucky enough to live far enough out that I can enjoy the stars. Jillian

  8. Valerie J. Patterson

    Excellent post, Kit! The bubbly-Hubby and I were just star gazing over the weekend and reminiscing about the time we were pulled off the highway and parked watching the stars (honest, we were) and two state police officers stopped, shined an intruding beam into our car and demanded to know what we were doing there. I politely informed him we were star gazing and he suggested we “star gaze” at home. It seemed he did not quite believe our story!

    Have a great time on holiday and I hope you see a beautiful sky lit up with shooting stars!!! 😛

  9. Thanks, Valerie. Holiday was fab, but no shooting stars!

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