The northern hemisphere is getting a free light show outside tonight. The Perseid meteor shower has been observed for over 2000 years, coming from the Far East, in constellation Perseus. Catholics sometimes refer to the Perseids as the “tears of St. Lawrence”, since 10 August is the date of that saint’s martyrdom. The name is a Greek reference to the “sons of Perseus.”
The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the peak in activity being between August 9 and 14, depending on the particular location of the stream. That location makes tonight the biggest show. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour.
Comets, and the trails of dust and meteorites behind them, have been speculated to cause the rise of intellegent life, extinction of species, and, in 1905, H. G. Wells’ In the Days of the Comet was an account of how the vapors of a comet’s tail caused an instantaneous worldwide utopian society.
1984’s Night of the Comet had a different take on the effects (see above). If you have a fear of turning into dust, or becoming a mindless flesh-eating zombie, you should stay deep in a cave or a lead-lined room. For a better view, go to a dark area, as far from cities as you reasonably can, to avoid background light.