Members’ Observations: The Tears of Saint Lawrence, by Win Corry, August 1999

Perseid Meteor Shower as seen from Cappadocia, Turkey

Leaving our hotel dining room in the evening of the day after the eclipse we were drawn towards an excited crowd in the lobby. It was a party of some hundred Italians, like us, in Turkey for the eclipse. Included in their group was the editor of “L’Astronamia” which I suppose is the Italian equivalent of “Astronomy Now.”

However, they were a few steps ahead of us because they were already showing their videos. We watched and shared and admired their “spettacolo,” and although from their site they suffered from some patchy, thin cloud, this in no way detracted from the “prickles behind the eyes” excitement of seeing it all again, and anyway not all of their videos were affected. We began to talk to one of them and he must have seen our envy when he told us that two coach loads of them were leaving the hotel in half-an-hour (at around 11.00pm) to go to a dark-sky site to watch for Perseids, because he immediately invited some of us to go with them, provided they had room to spare.

There was room for us and they told us they would be travelling about ten kilometres from the hotel, and would return between one and two o’clock. Tired though we were from late nights and early starts and many miles of road and air travel, and packing to do before a ten-hour coach journey the next day, this was just too good an opportunity to miss. We gratefully accepted and six of us piled happily on to one of their coaches. The viewing from the intended site was spoiled by a light source so we moved on to a really dark site where the Milky Way was peerless compared with anytime I have seen it from the UK.

We had barely alighted from the coach and were still acquiring our night vision when we began to see our meteor shower. During the course of the next seventy minutes or so I saw about twenty meteors. Other people saw ones which I missed and I suppose the best estimate of the total meteors seen must be put at between thirty and fifty. Almost all of these clearly originated from the radiant but there were some sporadic ones too. Most of those seen were of the usual ‘fast and fine’ variety, which take less than a quarter of a second to cross five to ten degrees of sky. I didn’t see any extremely bright ones but I understand that possibly six were seen that left a bright trail lasting nearly half a second and the longest of these covered maybe ten to twenty degrees. The Italians, being more demonstrative than we British, vented their feelings by much shouting of “ecco l€” and “que bella” and we became infected with their enthusiasm and joined in with their joyful shouting.

We were observing from a roadside and we were forced to hide our eyes, from time to time, as occasionally cars passed. Nevertheless, we were very pleased with what we saw, especially as one of our party, Matthew, had been unable to resist the temptation to bring his telescope and had set it up by us. Firstly he showed us two globular clusters, M22 in Sagittarius, and M13 in Hercules, then M8 which is associated with the Lagoon Nebula, also in Sagittarius. Later we looked at the Pleaides and also Jupiter but by then the seeing was not so good and little detail was visible. The last object we tried for was a double cluster in Perseus, NGC 869 and NGC 884, which we were lucky to catch just rising above the rocks. According to Matthew the radiant’s position was just west of this cluster pair.

I know we were all tired and getting a bit cold and stiff-necked so when the first coach left around one-thirty we were on it, very tired but very happy, and very appreciative of our hosts’ kindness.


  1. Our Italian friends called the Perseids “Lacrime San Lorenzo” (The Tears of Saint Lawrence) who was apparently martyred on 10th August in 210 AD.
  2. I would like to thank one of our party, Terry Griffiths, and acknowledge the generous contribution she made towards this article. She is a far better observer than I am and subsequently displayed a remarkable memory for detail, even in a foreign language, and furthermore knew what she was talking about.