As the French Astronomy Association (AFA) organizes this weekend the 30th edition of the “Nuits des Étoiles “, more than 330 events are taking place all over France to discover the night sky and all the treasures it holds.
This year, the focus should be on shooting stars. These small pieces of rock that come, in the space of a few seconds, illuminate the night sky before disappearing as stealthily as they appeared. Like every year at this time, the Perseids will occupy most of our nights. This cluster of comets crosses the path of the Earth every year, and each summer it offers a true celestial spectacle. The peak of activity is expected on August 12, but from this weekend onwards, many shooting stars are expected in our sky.
Shooting stars in the spotlight
For the uninitiated, it will still take a little patience, the shooting stars are visible only by tens each night, so it is necessary to take his pain in patience and wait for the heart of the night to have the chance to observe. The best thing to do is to get away from the cities to have the darkest sky possible.
This year, the sky should be on our side. If the weather is not really with us these last weeks, the night from Sunday to Monday is expected to be mild on a large part of the territory, and the sky should be very dark, the Moon having just finished its revolution, it will only light up very little the sky.
As for the constellations visible this weekend, the absence of the Moon should make it possible to admire the summer triangle from the beginning of the night (Lyra, Cygnus and Eagle) and thus to easily find one’s way in the night sky. Later in the night the constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius will make their arrival in the starry landscape, they will be in superposition with the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way.
Why this weekend and not another?
The first weekend of August has historically been chosen by the AFA to host the starry nights, and this choice is not simply a coincidence of the calendar. Indeed the summer nights, milder than those of winter, give more desire to the amateurs to fight tiredness and to remain awake. It is also easier to observe the sky in summer, as it is often clearer than in winter. These small practical details, coupled with the Perseids which always offer a majestic show in our sky, in the absence of more “extraordinary” events, have made this meeting of the beginning of August an unmissable event for all astronomy fans, and the curious in general.
To discover more about the history of the Nights of the Stars and French astronomy in general, the AFA has decided this year to shoot four videos with the space specialist YouTuber Astronogeek. They are available on his channel and highlight French researchers, astronauts and engineers who bring astronomy to life throughout the year. For the occasion, the AFA had access to an exceptional place, the Arago dome in the heart of the historic Paris Observatory.
The complete program of the Nights of the Stars can be found on the AFA website.