Every August, just when many people go vacationing in the country where skies are dark, the best-known meteor shower flashes across the sky.
It is the month of “The Tears of St. Lawrence,” more commonly known as the Perseid Meteor Shower. Laurentius (or Lawrence in modern English), a Christian deacon, is said to have been martyred by the Romans in 258 AD on an iron outdoor stove. During this torture, Laurentius was said to have cried out, “I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.”
The saint’s death was commemorated on his feast day, Aug. 10. The great number of shooting stars seen annually between approximately Aug. 8 and 14 have come to be known as St. Lawrence’s “fiery tears.”
In 2008, the Perseids are expected to reach their maximum on Aug. 12. We know today that these meteors are actually the dross of the Swift-Tuttle comet. A very good shower will produce about one meteor per minute in a dark country sky. Any light pollution or moonlight will obviously lower the count.