Christopher Cokinos

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The Perseid meteor shower is summer’s closing act, arriving in mid-August like clockwork. For centuries, many Christians associated it with the martyred St. Lawrence, whose feast day falls on Aug. 10, so they called the display “the tears of St. Lawrence.” By the mid-1800s, the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli came to understand that meteor showers are really comet dust — the “very minute particles that they have abandoned along their orbit.”

Meteor showers occur when Earth intersects with these so-called debris trains at particular times of the year. In the case of the Perseids, the meteor shower that peaks Wednesday and continues this week, the dust comes from Comet Swift-Tuttle, whose remains appear to shower down from the constellation Perseus as it moves across the northern sky.…  Seguir leyendo »