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  • The spectacular Perseids meteor shower, or

    The spectacular Perseids meteor shower, or 'shooting stars,' pictured August, 2015. | Photo: Commons Wikimedia

Published 10 August 2018

The meteor shower, also known as 'The Tears of St. Lawrence,' will reach its peak this weekend on August 11.

Every year the Earth gets close enough to the comet Swift-Tuttle's orbit to draw its debris into our atmosphere, and this year the new moon will leave a dark sky for us to enjoy the meteor shower during the weekend, its peak.

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The shower is usually visible every year between July 17 and August 24 around the world, but it's especially impressive the nights of August 11, 12 and 13, when up to 200 'shooting stars' will cross the sky every hour. This time the shower will be especially visible thanks to the August 11 new moon, leaving a dark and hopefully clear sky.

The Swift-Tuttle comet approaches every 133 years, leaving behind a trail of debris. That happened for the last time in 1992 and won't happen again until 2126.

However, the last event left enough for us to enjoy the spectacle every time Earth approaches its orbit and draws rocks, dust and other particles into its atmosphere, at least until the next cycle.

The particles reach high speeds when entering Earth's atmosphere and disintegrate on their way to the ground, leaving a trace of light.

The event was dubbed 'The Tears of St. Lawrence' during the Middle Ages, as every year comes close to the death anniversary of the Catholic saint Laurentius, a deacon executed during the rule of the Roman Emperor Valerian on August 10, in the year 258.

It's said Laurentius was burned on a grill and remarked "Turn me over, I'm done on this side" shortly before dying. That's why he's considered the patron saint of chefs, among other professions.

Due to the movement of the Earth and the position of the Swift-Tuttle's orbit of debris, all 'shooting stars' seem to come from the same place in the sky, the Perseus constellation, hence its other name.

Sky gazers and astronomers recommend watching the meteor show during the darkest hour of the night, far away from cities and other sources of light pollution.


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