Community event with the Astrophyics Group at the University of Exeter
from 9:00pm BST on 13 August 2018
As the Earth follows its orbit around the Sun, it encounters debris at the same place at the same time. So each year we are treated to meteor showers, as the debris enters and burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The Perseids in August are one of the most prolific meteor showers. They take their name from the constellation Perseus, the point in the sky where they appear to come.
The night sky is on everyone’s doorstep, but not everyone looks up. It’s been getting harder and harder, as light pollution gets worse. But now there is a movement towards dark skies, on the large scale and the small scale. For example, Exmoor National Park has been designated an International Dark Sky Reserve, and Devon County Council has installed low-pollution LED streetlighting in Rifford Road. And Exeter has plenty of parks: green space by day, starlit by night.
In 2017, the Heavitree Squilometre project ran a Park in the Dark event in Heavitree Pleasure Ground. Dr Claire Davies, researcher in Exeter University’s Astrophysics Group, gave a talk on the Perseids and star lore. Later I found out that she is also a Digby resident, and the Star Spangled Kyrangle was born!
We set aside a week of evenings, and thankfully were blessed with some clear weather at the beginning of the week. So on the Monday people from Digby and beyond gathered together as the skies darkened and the planets and stars appeared.
At dusk, as bats flitted around us, we had great views of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and the crescent moon. There were some spectacular shooting stars, and it was wonderful to hear everyone’s oohs! It was especially lovely to hear the stories from the participants – of how these were the first shooting stars they’d ever seen, or how this was the best event of their (long) weekend.
A big thank you to Dr Claire Davies and her colleagues from University Astrophysics for leading us through the evening. All massively knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and informative.
Nature bonus: The bats