Tears of Saint Lawrence
The Perseids, or Tears of Saint Lawrence, are actually small dust particles of different sizes that leave comets or asteroids along their orbits around the Sun.
History of the Perseids
Christian tradition tells that Saint Lawrence suffered a true Calvary on August 10, 258. Date on which he was burned alive at a stake in Rome. A slow death, on a grill, at the hands of his captors, the Romans. The legend even says that Saint Lawrence even mentioned while he was burned at the stake: “Turn me around, I am done on this side.”
The tears of that cruel martyrdom have gone down in history and are precisely what give name to the most popular meteor shower of the summer: the Perseids.
That is why, when Comet Swift-Tuttle gives off dust from its stellar tail in mid-August, popular tradition says that it is San Lorenzo, still shedding tears of pain from the sky for his torture.
For this reason, too, Christians have most vehemently admired this shower of stars, for representing the exemplary character of the martyr Saint Lawrence, whose head burned is on display in the Vatican.
Perseids: the shooting stars of August
The truth is that the so-called Tears of San Lorenzo refer to the most intense rain of shooting stars in summer, which usually begins in mid-July and lasts until the end of August, Although it is in mid-August when the peak of greatest intensity occurs.
This year 2019 the peak of activity will be centered between the nights of August 12 and 13 with up to 120 meteors per hour.
Comet 109P / Swift-Tuttle is the one behind these shooting stars. A trail of small particles that glow when they come into contact with the Earth’s atmosphere, heat up and vaporize, forming the flash.
This is the scientific explanation to this astronomical phenomenon. However, there are several popular legends and traditions that explain why these flashes can be seen in the sky every August.
Other legends of the Tears of San Lorenzo
Other even older legends, of Greek origin, also refer to the Tears of Saint Lawrence. You have to go back to mythology and the original name of this meteor shower: Perseids.
Perseus, according to mythology, is the son of Zeus and Danae, the only daughter of Acrisio, king of Argos and Euridice. Zeus came down to Earth to beget Danae by means of a golden storm – since she was imprisoned in a tower by her father, who refused to allow her to have children for fear of being dethroned.
Therefore, Zeus turned Perseus into a constellation, and every summer he throws a shower of golden sparkles to remember the way in which he was generated.
The Perseid Meteor Shower in all its splendor is here. This phenomenon also known as the tears of San Lorenzo takes place every year in summer and in 2020, we are in luck. Not only astronomy fans but everyone who wants to and can approach a place away from light pollution will be able to observe one of the greatest spectacles that can be seen in the sky. In Spain they are visible since last July 17 and will continue to be until next August 24, although their maximum activity is experienced in the next few days, specifically on August 12, the day on which the largest number of meteors.
What time to see the 2020 Perseid rain?
The Perseids, popular for their high activity rate and for the ease of viewing that this entails, they will be visible throughout the northern hemisphere and their meteors may exceed 50 kilometers per second, reaching an activity rate of 200 meteors per hour at their peak, between August 11 and 13.
Specifically, as indicated by the National Geographic Institute, this year the exact time when there will be greater activity in the Perseids will be between 3:00 p.m. and 18:00 hours on the 12th.
A good year to observe them
This astronomical phenomenon began just a few days after they started the δ Aquarids, with which they coincide during the final section of July and much of August. However, the dates on which each of these meteor showers reach their maximum activity rate are widely separated, something that means that 2020 is not a good year for observing the δ Aquarids, whose maximum has only occurred two days after the full moon; While, although the conditions will not be perfect for the Perseids, this year it will be optimal for observing them as it coincides with the waning Moon on August 12.
To see the Perseids at first sight, you just have to find a place away from light pollution and where there are no obstacles to your view. Once there, you just have to look at any part of the sky, because although these shooting stars seem to come from the constellation of Perseus that gives them their name, scientists say that on a clear night they can be seen in any sector of it.
Of course, we must bear in mind that the best time to prevent the light of the Moon from obstructing your vision is before it jumps, just after sunset In case of not arriving on time, it is best to look towards the darkest areas, in the opposite direction to the Earth’s satellite.