Perseid Meteor Shower

For the next week, the northeast skies above us will be active with shooting stars from the Perseid Meteor Shower. Don’t miss it!

Thunderstorms roiled the skies last Saturday evening so when I peeked out the door at 0230 a.m. Sunday morning, I really didn’t expect to see stars. But there they were and for an hour I lounged on the patio in my robe and slippers staring at the Milky Way nearly directly above me. I was looking for shooting stars. That might seem like a random activity, but I had an edge. The Perseid Meteor shower had begun.

For the next several weeks, the night skies should be particularly active with meteors, also called shooting stars, as the Perseid Meteor Shower comes to full view. It should be at its strongest on the night/morning of August 11/12.

The Perseid Meteor shower is named for the constellation Perseus in the north-eastern night sky. It is named that because the shower seems to radiate from those stars. However, the meteors are only about 60 miles distant while the stars are light-years away.

As I looked into the Perseid Meteor shower, I was a little confused by terminology. What is the difference between a comet, asteroid, meteor, meteoroid and meteorite?

It turns out that an asteroid is a large chunk of rock that originates from the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.  A comet is similar to an asteroid but is comprised of more ice and gases that create the fuzzy cloak around the comet called a coma as well as the fiery tail. They are thought to originate from either the Oort Cloud or the Kuiper Belt.

Meteoroids are interplanetary material much smaller than either comets or asteroids; less than a kilometer across and often only a few millimeters in size. The smaller ones usually vaporize trying to enter our atmosphere. Those that make it through our atmosphere are called meteors and leave a streak of light across the sky as they burn out. Interestingly, the term, meteor, refers to this streak of light and not to the debris itself. Meteorites are meteoroids that survive the trip through our atmosphere and collide with Earth.

The Perseus Meteor shower is comprised of debris left behind in the wake of the orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Around the first week of August each year we enter into the most debris laden part of these fragments as our orbit and that of the comet cross. As the particles slam into our upper atmosphere at 130,000 miles an hour, we get a shooting star show.

The Comet Swift-Tuttle has an oblong orbit around the sun that takes over 135 years to complete. If you missed it in 1991, you missed it. Period. But when its orbit comes closest to the sun, it begins to melt a bit, shedding new debris in its path and this provides the material for the annual show.

 This year, however, astronomers say that the cloud of particles is extra dense and they are calling for a super shower where 200 meteors per hour may shoot across the sky at the peak on August 11/12. However, the new moon was Tuesday, so viewing in the darkest skies may be better now than at the peak.

The Perseids Meteor shower is best seen after midnight and later is better. Find a dark open sky and then look for the constellation, Cassiopea, the W in the sky. North and east of Cassiopea is the Perseus constellation. Then, sit back and enjoy the show!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho