Don’t Miss Out on the Most Beautiful Night Sky of the Year

Space, the final frontier. This are the voyages of geeks from Just Zagreb. Their two day mission: to explore well known phenomena, to seek out familiar hills and old viewpoints; to boldly go where the Chinese have been 2000 years before.

We’re going to go watch meteor showers this weekend, is what we’re saying, and you should too.

Each summer, starting from July and peaking mid-August, the sky is filled with falling stars, meteors from the Swift -Tuttle comet passing us by this time of year. The phenomena is hugely popular in Croatia and is known as Saint Lawrence’s tears (Suze Svetog Lovre). In non-catholic  countries it’s better known as Perseids, called so because the radiant (point of origin viewed from Earth) lies in the constellation Perseus. We don’t know how the Chinese called it, but we have to give credit where its due, they were the first ones to observe the phenomena in 69 BC! They were taking detailed notes of the sky waaay back in the Warring States period (4th century BC).

This year’s peak of the shower is on August 12th and 13th, this weekend, and can be seen from anywhere that has little too no light pollution (so city dwellers are out of luck). We’re talking about a hundred visible meteors an hour. It’s something to behold, and anyone who has a chance should look up to the night sky this weekend.

Christians call it Saint Lawrence’s tears in honor of the saint who’s feast day is on August 10th. He was burned alive then, and people thought that the falling meteors were embers of that fire. He was burned for handing out Church treasures to the poor as alms, and is best known for his words while being roasted alive: I’m well done, turn me over.

This is very likely not true, since priest and bishops were given quick deaths by decapitation, as decreed by edicts of the time (the legend was hyped thanks to a typo in the documents describing his death). Other folk legend have sprawled from his death and meteors as time passed by, but most of them are thought to be Christianized pagan beliefs.

Today we know what the meteors are and where they come from, but it’s no less fascinating, and scary. There was a period when the possibility of Swift – Tuttle coming our way seemed very real, and Earth would not come out okay with that meeting. Fortunately, new calculations have proven those fear wrong, kind of.

People will be able to see the comet with their naked eye in 1126, and it will enter our solar system in 4479. The probability of it hitting earth will be 0, 0001%. If the comet was Superman, Batman would not like those odds. It was, after all, described as the single most dangerous object known to humanity.

Thankfully, 4479 is still a long way from now, and we’re pretty sure some human invention will take the honorary title by then, so we might as well forget about that impending doom from the cosmos and enjoy a nice, starry summer night, marveling at the wonders of the universe.

The best way to do that is to find a place with little light around it, anywhere on Medvednica is good if you’re in Zagreb, but local astrologists recommend the first road turn after Hunjka mountaineer resort and restaurant at Sljeme.

If you’re not up for hiking or driving, you can try your chances at Cmrok meadow, or small meadows along Zelengaj road.

If you’d like to take photos of it, here’s our last year’s recommendation:

Have a tripod or something stable you can put your camera on.
Use a 2 sec timer so your button pressing doesn’t blur the picture.
Rise ISO values as much as you can (the higher the value the more likely your picture will be grainy, so care).
Try not to use exposure longer than 30 sec as the trail fades quickly.
Aperture (how much the lens is opened) should be maxed to let the most light in.
Have the widest shot angle possible.
Play with the settings and don’t worry if you don’t get it at first, there’s plenty of space debris falling on us to get your shot. It will be worth it.