Meteor shower is less than stellar

Rain, cloud-cover conceal Perseid's celestial display

August 14, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

Cloudy, rainy foggy - not the best conditions for star gazing.

Yesterday morning at 1 o'clock was supposed to be the peak of a gorgeous glow of shooting stars, known more precisely as the Perseid shower - an annual meteor shower that occurs when the Earth passes through dust left by the comet Swift-Tuttle.

Named for the constellation Perseus, the Perseid shower typically produces between 50 and 100 meteors per hour at its peak.

But yesterday's show was diminished because of overcast skies.

Just a half-dozen spectators gathered in a quiet corner of Howard County - outside the locked, gated entrance to Alpha Ridge Community Park in Marriottsville - for a glimpse of the meteor shower, which never managed to show itself in any spectacular way.

There were no lights glaring. It was pitch black. But those conditions were not enough to overcome the dreary weather.

There were no scientist types in the tiny crowd. A pair of retirees, a married couple who work in higher education and two recent high school graduates looked and looked for the tiny gold nuggets that were supposed to streak through the sky.

No one saw much of anything.

Not good for retirees and longtime couple Aaron T. Ellis, 69, and Barbara Reynolds, 62, of Ellicott City.

Reynolds has never seen the Perseid meteor shower, or any other one, and was anticipating a sky lighted by shooting stars.

Leaning back in their seats and craning their necks backward, gazing up at the blackened sky through their car's sunroof, they saw nothing.

"Do you know when they're supposed to start in full force?" Ellis asked.

"Now!" answered Mark Garrison, 52, of Columbia, a longtime star gazer, seated nearby in a lawn chair beside his wife Diane, 55.

The couple has checked out the Perseid shower every August for more than two decades. It coincides with their daughter's birthday, who turned 21 this year.

Perhaps fittingly, they were the only of those gathered who managed to catch any glimpses of the falling stars.

Still, Mark concluded, "This is pretty disappointing."

No worries for them, though. They had glimpsed the Perseid showers' streaks of light the night before.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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