As Les UDs prepare to leave for Big Meadows at Shenandoah National Park, the way they do every August, to mark the twin celestial events of the height of the Perseid meteors and UD‘s birthday, some sources warn them to trim their expectations. Meteor-shower and fire-ball-wise, what you’re after, in the words of the great jazz standard, is No Moon At All; but this year what you’re getting is a great big ol’ moon.


We are instructed by a raft of astronomers to go for it anyway.

Despite the light bath, there’s still hope for a good show for a couple of reasons. First, the shower is prolific — Perseids flash by at the rate of more than one a minute. Even if you reduce that by more than half due to moonlight, that’s still around 25 per hour. Second, this famous annual shower is the undisputed king of fireballs …

Indeed, when I’ve seen fireballs at Big Meadows it’s been indescribably exciting.

Just as exciting, now that I think about it, have been the full moons in clear skies that I’ve seen at Big Meadows. Here’s a birthday post of mine from three years ago.

August 15, 2019


The irony was that we were there for the perseids; but sitting on our rickety beach chairs at the Big Meadows clearing last night, the real show turned out to be an absolutely full brilliantly lit moon that insinuated itself as a silver glint among horizonal clouds and then raised itself up to surreality right before our eyes. UD grabbed her binoculars and attempted to make credible the massive and intricately legible orb, its hollows and craters so blatant… When it climbed to higher clouds, they made a golden aura together, the moon now and then blindfolding itself with a black ribbon of atmosphere, and I sat there thinking about my mother who loved the night sky. And of course immediately came the thought that has so often for so long come to UD: We are here to experience the terrestrial wonder that our dead don’t get anymore. We’re doing it for them.

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