Monday, June 27, 2011

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

On August 13th I'm gong to be performing at the Lake Poway Campout. August 13th happens to be the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower.

The story of Perseus is near and dear to me. When I was a very young boy we had a book fair at the school. My teacher saved a copy of D'Aulaire's Greek Myths especially for me, she said I would enjoy it. I bought it and I was hooked! I read and re-read that book a hundred times (I just re-read it again a couple of months ago), I made family trees of the greeks, and I wrote myths about the gods who weren't represented.

Then, in 1981 Clash of the Titans came to our tiny, local movie theater. The theater was only 50 cents for double-feature and when a new movie was out, we would go in the morning and stay all day. I remember it like it was yesterday, it played with Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, a Charles Schneer/ Ray Harihausen extravaganza. I could have died at 12 years old and my life would've been complete - I had seen all that was right with the world.

When I visited Florence twenty years later, I required a picture with Cellini's Persesus.

Now, I like to inject some learnin' into my campfires, and I've learned to find the constellation of Persesus so I can point out the nexus of the meteor storm, and I've learned the source of the storm. It's a terribly gloomy story:

Each year, in August, we pass through the orbit of comet Swift-Tuttle. Swift-Tuttle orbits the sun once every 130 years, leaving behind a trail of debris, that from our perspective, appears to originate in the direction of the constellation Perseus. The comet was first discovered, in the second half of the 19th century, by two different atronomers: Swift and Tuttle. Much like Edmund Halley, they calculated the course of the comet and predicted when it would appear in 1992.
When astronomers looked for the comet in 1992, it was 17 days late. Scientists adjusted all calculations for the 17 day difference and discovered that the comet will slam into the earth in 2126.
The comet Swift-Tuttle is 27 kilometers in diamters, the comet that killed the dinosaurs (affectionately referred to as "The K-T Impactor") was only 10 km in diameter. Swift-Tuttle travels at 60 km per second and will impact with a force 27 times greater than the K-T Impactor - effectively killing all multi-cellular life on Earth. Ahh, good times.
 So, of course scientist launched all their super-computers and studied the notes of ancient Chinese atronomers who had documented the comet and eventually determined that it will miss us, but it's going to be close and will appear in the sky as spectacularly as Hale-Bopp did in 1997 (we married in May of '97 at the edge of Grand Canyon, with Hale-Bopp hanging in the sky above us).
Now, they're saying that Swift-Tuttle will make its closest approach in Spetember of 4479, at which point it may indeed slam in the Earth.

All this gives Swift-Tuttle the title of "The most dangerous object known to humanity"

Cellini's Perseus in Florence

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