Last month, the Howard County Conservancy welcomed visitors to its popular "Fiddlers and Fireflies" evening picnic, and this month, it invites the community to a light show of a different variety: the Perseid meteor shower. This phenomenon occurs every summer when the earth passes through a debris cloud from the comet Swift-Tuttle. Sand-sized particles will bombard the earth's atmosphere at 71 km/sec (44 mi/sec), creating a brilliant display of "shooting stars."
Although sky watchers may see the Perseids any time between July 17 and Aug. 24, peak viewing will take place Aug. 13. The Conservancy's free program, "Night Sky/Dark Sky: The Perseid Meteor Showers," will begin Aug. 12 at 10 p.m. and run until 2 a.m. This year, a nearly-full moon will add further beauty to the sky but may limit sightings of the fainter meteors.
Alex Storrs, a Towson University astronomy professor, will lead the evening in conjunction with local "Stardoc" Dr. Joel Goodman. Their program will touch on the "dark sky movement," a campaign to reduce light pollution. Remember to bring a blanket or chair and a flashlight, and prepare to meet indoors if rain develops.
The Conservancy will also offer two other programs this month. A free Wonder Walk will focus on "Using a Key to ID Trees" Aug. 13 at 10 a.m. Wanda Maclachlan, from the University of Maryland Extension, will teach participants how to distinguish the leaves of various trees using a free identification key that they can take home with them. A more detailed key will be available for purchase, if desired.
Next up, Dr. Michael Raupp, a University of Maryland entomology professor, will lecture about "Stink Bugs and Other Obnoxious Pests" Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. Experts predict that the next onslaught may be twice as bad as last year! Register early if you wish to attend; the Conservancy expects this program to fill quickly.
The lecture costs $5 per person and requires registration; call 410-465-8877 or go to http://www.hcconservancy.org. The Conservancy address is 10520 Old Frederick Road, in Woodstock.
One final note: the Conservancy continues to seek drop-in gardeners to help maintain the site's many gardens. All levels of experience are welcome. If you can assist, call Christ Garbart at the above phone number or email@example.com.
If you have not yet attended a Sykesville Concert in the Park, your time is running out for this year. Classic rock trio Plan B (http://www.planbtrio.com will perform Friday, Aug. 5, and then student band Crossfire (http://www.mdparty.com/performers/default.aspx?id=11720d will take the stage for a final, back-to-school concert Aug. 12.
All performances run from 7-9 p.m. at Millard Cooper Park, located 1/4 mile west of Route 32 on Springfield Avenue. Parking is free across the street at Sykesville Middle School.
Bring your kids and your appetites – the park includes a lighted playground and a snack bar – but leave pets and alcohol at home. To learn more, go to http://www.sykesville.net or contact Main Street Manager Ivy Wells at 410-795-8959 or firstname.lastname@example.org.