On Wednesday, August 10 of this year, photographer Anthony Essmaker of Anthony + Darci Photography visited Lighthouse Park to enjoy and record this year’s Perseids meteor shower.
Why is there a shower of meteors this time each year? In the days from mid-July to this time in August, the earth, on its orbit around the sun, intersects the longer, more elliptical path of the Swift-Tuttle comet. The comet, like all comets, is not a stable ball like a planet, moon, or even an asteroid.
Comets hurtle through the solar system, spewing gases and scattering debris from rocks coming loose from them. Not having any significant gravity, as they are so relatively small, comets lose their debris. These pieces of the comet enter our thick atmosphere at more than 100,000 miles per hour and burn up, this is what we call the Perseid meteor shower.
The intensity and beauty of any particular year’s shower is just a matter of how thick the matter coming loose from the comet is at the point, lasting three weeks or so, that our world crosses the path of the comet.
This meteor shower was named “Perseids” because, at the time of year the shower occurs, the constellation Perseus is directly above it. Perseus was a hero in Greek mythology. He was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman, Danae. The blaze of the meteor shower commemorates Zeus “visiting” Danae in a shower of golden light.
Of course, the location of the shower in front of any constellation is arbitrary. The Perseus constellation is composed of stars light-years distant from the meteor shower.
In 2017, the Perseids will peak on August 12.