I missed the Perseids last week – a combination of bad weather and having to get up early to go to SETIcon the next day – but I, and now you, can get a good feel for them via this lovely timelapse video taken by photographer Henry Jun Wah Lee:
I’m not sure how many of those streaks are Perseids, how many are random meteors (typically from any given location you see a handful of sporadic meteors per hour) and how many are airplanes. Still, it’s pretty.
The large lumpy cloud you see in this video is actually the Milky Way. We live inside the galaxy, which is a huge flat disk with a puffy ball of stars in the core. We’re offset from the center, so when we look in that direction (toward the constellation Sagittarius) we can see the swelling of that central bulge; it’s a bit like living a few miles north of downtown New York City, so when you look south you see the densest concentration of lights. Looking toward the center of the galaxy means we see more stars, gas, and dust in that direction. Looking elsewhere, we see the disk as a thick line across the sky. It rises and sets just like everything else in the sky.
I like these kinds of videos. I do love sitting outside and watching the sky go by, but when I can’t, this reminds me of how relaxing and how wonderful it is.