Already early this week you will see an occasional Perseid meteor gracing the sky, but next weekend the real show begins. The absolute peak of this year’s Perseids is favorable to observers in North America, and with no moonlight interference we are in for a real treat—provided you escape cloudy weather. I highly recommend “going mobile” if the weather forecast 24-48 hours before the peak night indicates less than ideal conditions at your location.
The Perseids this year are expected to peak Sunday night August 12/13. Highest observed rates will likely be between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Monday, August 13. Here’s a synopsis of the 2018 Perseids.
Many years ago I wrote a short poem while listening to the final and most otherworldly section of The Planets by Gustav Holst: Neptune, the Mystic.
Here it is:
Neptune, the Mystic from The Planets by Gustav Holst
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Vernon Handley
Ambrosian Chorus, John McCarthy
Alto ALC 1013
The endless poetry of space Sends shivers across my spine,
And there upon the threshold sounds The now distant drone of time.
Music fills the spacecraft Starlight fills the night,
And there upon the threshold think I wonder, was I right?
The Planets was written by Holst between 1914 and 1916, and the premiere performance was at The Queen’s Hall, London, on September 29, 1918. Adrian Boult conducted the orchestra in a private performance for about 250 invited guests. The Queen’s Hall was destroyed by an incendiary bomb during the London Blitz in 1941, seven years after Holst’s death in 1934.
Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, and was considered to be the ninth planet until its controversial demotion by the IAU in 2006. A number of composers have added a Pluto movement to ThePlanets (“Pluto, the Renewer” by Colin Matthews, for example), and even an improvised performance (“Pluto, the Unpredictable”) by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. I remember enjoying “Pluto, the Unknown” by American composer Peter Hamlin performed by the Des Moines Symphony in 1992, but unfortunately no recording of this work exists.