Monday, August 13, 2007

HOT TUB ASTRONOMY

Usually it begins with a global announcement to the household that the hot tub is open. Last night was no exception, but I initiated the invitation. After crawling around the kitchen most of the afternoon to install new hardware on the cabinets, my aging body was more than ready for the experience. Jeff decided to join me.

Within a few minutes of partial immersion, a huge meteor caught my attention as it streaked from the northeast nearly perpendicular to the visible Milky Way. We knew that mid-August is usually a good time for celestial theater of sorts, but didn’t know that the evening of August 12 was the star date for another Perseid performance.

Comets shed the debris that comprise most meteor showers. As comets orbit our sun, they shed an icy, dusty debris stream along the comet's orbit. When planet Earth travels through this stream, we often witness a meteor shower. And with clear skies and no moonlight to interfere with the show, we were entertained with a meteor every few minutes.

I am glad Jeff could refresh my memory of the seasonal constellations…thanks to a first hour class last year in astronomy. He must have been more awake than his claim to sleeping in the lightly dimmed classroom. Ursa Major can be found in the northwest sky this time of year and the meteors seemed to stream away from the border of Perseus and Cassiopeia in the northeast.

The hot tub has been a source of family therapy, too. The casual setting allows us to congregate and to dialogue about many a topic. Such occasions are often rare in our families these days. Add the benefits of hydrotherapy and meteor frenzy and you’ve got yourself an awesome experience of renewal.

I can hardly wait for the lunar eclipse on Tuesday morning, August 28. However, we’ll have to trek to the Lake Michigan shoreline to experience the show…not for a sunrise (no matter what some tourists may believe, the sun doesn’t rise over Lake Michigan in Grand Haven) but for a moon setting. See you at North Beach Park.