This year's 5th Star Night event opens Friday at the 'Serres Astropyli' (Stargate) in the town of Ano Vrontou, at an elevation of 1,100 meters, once again scheduled to coincide with the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower. The three-day Star Night event is dedicated this year to the 2011 International Year of Chemistry, and the commencement of the UN-designated Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020.
The theme of the event, which runs through Sunday, is "Astronomy and Chemistry - In our Life and in our
Future", while this year features, for the first time, eminent personalities in the fields of astrophysics and astronomy, among them Thessaloniki Aristotle University (AUTH) astrophysics, astronomy and engineering professor Haris Varvoglis, who will speak on "Asteroids, Comets and Cosmic disasters", and Patras University professor Vassilis Zafiropoulos, who will speak on Cosmic Biochemistry.
The Star Night in Ano Vrontou is turning into an institution, being held for the fifth consecutive year, and attracts hundreds of visitors, including scientists and amateurs, and devoted stargazers from all over the world.
The 2011 Star Night will begin with the lighting of a large fire under the starry sky, and the cosmic fireworks display put on by the Perseid shooting starts.
The three-day events will be accompanied by cultural activities hosted by the Ano Vrontou Cultural Club, the Serres Municipal Museum of Natural History, the Serres UNESCO branch, the UNESCO Touring Club, and the local radio-amateurs club, while the "Interactive Digital Planetarium Apollon" will also be presented at the events.
Inhabitants all over the planet, including Greece, will be over the next few days to the cosmic fireworks display put on by the Perseid meteor shower, which occurs every year as Earth passes through a trail of dusty debris left behind by the Swift-Tuttle comet, and is named after the northern constellation of Perseus from which it appears to radiate.
Earth entered the stream of debris in late July, but the meteor shower peaks towards mid-August when Earth passes through the densest part of the debris stream.
The meteor shower can be seen with the naked eye, while best viewing time is between midnight and 5:00 a.m. The early morning hours are the most optimum for viewing this year, due to a 55 percent waning gibbous moon, given that lunar glare reduces night vision and makes it harder to see the "stars" of the show, the Earthgrazers, which are meteors that approach from the horizon and skim the atmosphere overhead like stones skipping across the surface of a lake, dotting the display with colorful bursts.
According to astronomers, the Perseids, the most famous of all meteor showers, are due to comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which makes a full orbit around the sun every 130 years.
The phenomenon is visible chiefly in the Northern Hemisphere, where the Perseid meteors can start being seen as early as July 23, when one meteor every hour or so may be visible. During the next three weeks, there is a slow build-up to five Perseids visible per hour at the beginning of August and reaching a peak of 60-80 meteors per hour.