Saint Laurentius may have owed his martyrdom to an overly quick-witted reaction. When Roman officials came to him to search for church treasures, he is said to have referred to faithful Christians. Those were the treasures of the Church. The Romans were not interested in clever statements. They wanted riches. After Laurentius was unsuccessfully tortured, according to one of the readings, he was roasted over a fire. According to another version, the executioner struck the head of the deacon.
In any case, things were not very accurate on August 10, 258. Laurentius’ fate had made an impression. The meteor showers that pass through the Earth on about the same date every year, which were clearly visible this week, were easy to explain to believers. In heaven the saint cried over his terrible end. Therefore the recurring astronomical phenomenon in parts of Europe has been referred to as “Laurent’s Tears”. Because of the roasting (it would have been made to “cook” on both sides), Laurentius became the patron saint of everyone who worked with fire, including cooks.
fired in the genie
The other name for the “star meteor”, Perseids, indirectly refers to the myths of the ancient Greeks. The nomenclature is derived from Perseus, a constellation in the northern sky. It is named after the son of the supreme god Zeus and the daughter of King Danai. It appears that the meteor showers came from the constellation.
The oldest surviving written record of the phenomenon is in Chinese and dates back to AD 36. The Chinese saw in the “Meteor” a bad omen. Typical, because superstitions in the West still attach a different meaning to it to this day: whoever sees it may make a wish.
This can partly be traced back to the 2nd century Greek astronomer Ptolemy. According to him, the stars came out of their position due to the descent of the gods. If you saw them fall, that was the perfect moment for a wish.
Islam came again with other interpretations of meteorites. According to this belief, they were shot at Djinn, the supernatural and invisible beings that can possess humans and make them fall under the spell of evil.
The correct astronomical interpretation of the annual August meteor showers (the particles left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle) had to wait until the 19th century. At first, scientists, including the great Alexander von Humboldt, believed that the swarm was an atmospheric phenomenon. In the 1930s, scientists established a relationship with matter in space that the Earth encountered in its annual orbit around the Sun. One of the men who saw it this way was Edward Herrick, the first full-time librarian at Yale and a man with a great passion for astronomy.
In the summer of 1862, American researchers Lewis Swift and Horace Parnell-Tuttle discovered a new comet. Both had once started out as amateur astronomers. Ultimately, their continued curiosity about the stars was rewarded with the 1862 discovery named after them: Swift-Tuttle’s Comet.
Italian Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1910), astronomer and director of the observatory in Milan, associated the comet with a meteor shower of August 1867. Not everyone was immediately convinced. Schiaparelli was also sometimes wrong: the time he calculated that the planets Venus and Mercury rotated on their axis turned out to be wrong. But with regard to Perseids, science eventually had to prove it correct.
Every week, Paul van der Steen looks at the news through historical glasses.
Beautiful swarm of pebbles and stones
The Perseid meteor passes again. Please fold a comfortable chair for this scene.
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