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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Clouds disappoint star-gazer crowd

By Shayna Coleon
Advertiser Staff Writer

The sky was filled with clouds, but that didn't stop about 700 star-gazers from showing up at Hanauma Bay to catch a glimpse of the annual Perseid meteor shower in the wee hours yesterday.

Only a few shooting stars could be seen through the gray, and unfortunately more of the same was expected this morning.

For the first time, Bishop Museum held free programs at Hanauma Bay for viewing of the meteor shower, from midnight to 2 a.m. yesterday and today.

Museum Planetarium manager Mike Shanahan said he counted only two shooting stars through the clouds in the two hours yesterday. On a clear night, about 100 to 120 Perseid shooting stars can be seen in that time, he said.

But even if shooting stars had been plentiful, the most exciting part of the night may have been the turnout, as the museum expected only about 200 people.

"This was the biggest astronomy turnout since I've been here," said Shanahan, who has managed the planetarium for three years. "I was really glad to see people who were not the usual astronomy regulars. There were families and even folks on dates, which was unusual for an astronomy event."

Paul Lawler of Hawai'i Kai, a Hawaiian Astronomical Society member who attends star-gazing events every weekend, said it was the biggest astronomy gathering he had seen here.

"There was a line (of cars) to get in. It went all the way down to Koko Marina Shopping Center," Lawler said.

Shanahan said the turnout could have been people looking for a late-night activity.

"It's a real thing," he said. "Better than a movie, better than watching TV."

The Perseids occur each year when the Earth travels through debris left by the Swift-Tuttle comet.

As debris the size of rice grains enters the Earth's atmosphere, it burns up and creates streaks of light across the sky.

Lawler said disappointed star-gazers need not wait until Perseid comes around next year.

"The stars are beautiful every night — there's so much out there," Lawler said. "In the world of flashy lights and fast cars, star gazing gives you an opportunity to get back to the fundamentals."

Reach Shayna Coleon at scoleon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8004.