We’re halfway through the Summer, and now the meteor showers begin!
In August the daylight noticeably wanes, but as compensation, the starlight gains, and just as we turn the corner into the last full month of the season, we roll through the path of the Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower. This meteor shower takes its name from a star in the constellation Aquarius, which has a name that means a whisper, or a wish ~ so this meteor shower literally sends the “wishing stars” through our skies! and happens for several weeks, but it’s strongest this week.
Last year I hosted comet discoverer Don Machholz for a terrific virtual interview about his success discovering celestial objects using equipment he builds himself (in the race against machine discovery). The Delta Aquarids are caused by the comet 96P /Machholz, which he discovered with binoculars he built, and they kick off the meteor shower season.
As we pass the peak of the Delta Aquarids, we enter the outside edge of the famous Perseid Meteor Shower, which will peak in two weeks.
This meteor shower of the hero Perseus is followed by the meteor shower of the Hunter Orion, in October, then the Lion, in November, the Twins, in December, and finally, at Winter Solstice, the Meteor Shower of the Bears, known as the Ursids.
There’s a wonderful poetry in this sequence of meteor showers, and it was once believed that these meteors or falling stars were a gift from the divine world to the human being, to bolster us through this time of waning sunlight. It was imagined that the meteors speeding through the night sky activated and strengthened the human being the same way iron activates and strengthens the blood. And this explains the mighty stories connected to the regions of the sky that lend their names to the showers: Perseus slays the monster Medusa and rescues Andromeda; Orion is a mighty hunter; the Lion is a paragon of courage; the Twins bring discernment; and the great bears were believed to be escorts for the goddess of the solstice, which brings stillness.
You can catch the gifts of these meteors now, and nearly each month for the rest of the year, as they’re loosed from their lofty places among the stars.
Peak dates of the meteor showers that begin in this season and fall through our skies until Winter Solstice:
Delta Aquarids ~ July 29-30
Perseids ~ August 11-13
Orionids ~ October 21-22
Leonids ~ November 17-18
Geminids ~ December 13-14
Ursids ~ December 21-22