Every year, between August 9 and 14, a shower of shooting stars, called the Perseids, can be seen in the night sky, providing that it is cloud free and that there is not too much light pollution. Tonight, being right in the middle of this period, and with the sky being free from clouds, Bitte and I sat out in the garden in our deck chairs, at about midnight, and watched for shooting stars. We were out for about 30 minutes, Bitte saw seven and I saw six, most of them were a bit dim, but a couple were quite spectacular. This kind of activity makes me wonder what the neighbours think of us!
The first time I saw the Perseids was at a summer camp in Scarborough in about 1975. I lay in a field on the side of a hill in complete isolation and darkness for a couple of hours and was enthralled by the display. Unfortunately, I could not convince anybody else to share the experience.
I remember a particular evening in August 1980, going to the pub with some college friends. I referred to my previous viewing of the Perseids and noted that the sky was particularly clear and that there would be a good chance of seeing some shooting stars if we could find a place dark enough. Light pollution is particularly problematic in central London. After some discussion we decided that the middle of Saint James’s park, not to be confused with St James’ park, which is where Newcastle United play their home football matches, was probably our best bet. We dispersed from the pub, having arranged to meet up in the park at midnight with cameras, tripods and a few bottles of beer and whisky. It was, in fact, very dark in the middle of the park, so cameras were set for long exposure photos and prepared to see the shooting stars. We even found some deck chairs that we set up and made ourselves comfortable in. After a short while, a park warden turned up wondering what we were doing. He shone his torch into all the cameras and ruined the photos. However, slightly amused, he accepted our explanation and charged us 10 pence rental each for the deck chairs. He turned a blind eye to the various bottles on display. At some stage, later that night, we dispersed to our different addresses in and around London, one interesting experience richer.