2021 Perseids meteor shower

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS –   One of the best reasons for leaving the big city and moving to a place like Houston County has to be the sights. Small town life, flags waving, children riding their bicycles through lazy streets and the open forests and fields – things people appreciate and would not give up easily.

Some of the greatest vistas in our area can only be seen at night. Our recently arrived neighbors from bigger cities may be confused by those glowing lights in the nighttime sky. However Houston County can offer stargazers some breathtaking sights.

Last month many residents commented online about seeing a huge green light streaking across the sky around 10:30 p.m. on July 25. It turned out not to be that alien invasion – as some may have hoped for – but a meteorite burning through the night sky.

The month of August offers more celestial magic, some worth staying up late or getting up early in order to see.

The third and final supermoon of this year will rise on Thursday, Aug. 11. The term “supermoon” was coined in 1979 and is often used to describe what astronomers would call a perigean full moon: a full moon occurring near or at the time when the Moon is at the closest point in its orbit around Earth. If you miss the last one this year it will be July of 2023 before we see the next one.

August will also see the return of the Perseids meteor shower. This year the meteor shower will occur during the supermoon making it harder to see. In perfect conditions, the Perseids shower can include up to 100 meteors per hour. To better see the meteor shower the night of Aug. 11/12, the best time will be after midnight. Since that is also the night of the full moon, try to focus on dark parts of the sky in order to catch some falling stars.

Any cloud-free night in August will also be a good time to see the planet of Saturn. It will be in its closest position to Earth throughout the month. August 14 is officially the closest Saturn will be to us. It will rise in the East each night and set in the West with the sunset.

Lastly, just before daybreak on Aug. 19, Mars and the moon will be extremely close together just above the Orion constellation. Jupiter will also be seen near the pair, just above and to the right of Mars.

Before films and television, people were entertained by watching those stars and planets rotate and crisscross the night sky. They told stories, fables and legends about warring luminaries in the sky. Maybe this is the year to spend a night or two outside and see the glory and majesty our sky will display this month.

Greg Ritchie can be reached at greg@messenger-news.com

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