meteor shower and a supernova

13 08 2010

Last night I was outside watching the Perseid meteor shower, and it was very relaxing and enjoyable.  Even when there’s not meteor showers, I still like looking at the stars.  Everyone should do that every once in a while.  It’s even better if you’ve recently read up on stars or if you watched some astronomy show on TV (such as “How the Universe Was Made” or “Naked Science”).  It’s amazing to ponder the enormity of space and how it all works together.  For instance, the meteors that were streaking across the sky were traveling at more than 125,000 miles per hour, and while they burn up they leave a trail of ionized air, which is the streak of light we see.  Also, it’s possible to hear the meteors — supposedly if you tune your FM radio to station so distant that all you hear is hiss, a passing meteor creates a blip like a sonar blip.  You can hear one here, and it actually sounds kinda creepy.

I’ve noticed several stars that really twinkle and appear to change colors from red, white, and blue (and they’re not airplanes).   (FYI, professional astronomers don’t call it twinkling — they call it scintillation.)  I realize the twinkling and changing of colors if just an illusion produced by refraction from our atmosphere, but in my imagination I can ignore that.  🙂  Sometimes I think about how awesome it would be to see a star go supernova — that is, explode.  I suppose that doesn’t happen too often, and it would probably be too far away to see the effect, but I can imagine…