Meteor Showers Ahead this Weekend as Prelude to PARI Book Presentation - TribPapers

Meteor Showers Ahead this Weekend as Prelude to PARI Book Presentation

Courtesy of Department of Defense.

Asheville – Sky watchers will experience the marvels of nature this coming August 11th, 12th and 13th when the Perseid meteors light up the nighttime sky. It is a fitting prelude to a presentation next Saturday, 19 August at 10:15 AM (Pack Library) by Craig Gralley on his new book, “PARI: An Untold History of Spacemen and Spies.”

Author Craig Gralley will share the history of the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute which has served NASA, the Department of Defense, and is now a non-profit education group for 60 years near Rosman. The Asheville Museum of History in conjunction with Buncombe County Special Collections has organized this free event at Pack Library at 10:15 AM. This presentation can also be accessed on zoom-livestream.

According to his website, Gralley’s recent book “PARI: An Untold History of Spacemen and Spies,” tells the story of how a small community in the mountains of North Carolina helped to win the space race, the Cold War and became a model for science education. Gralley, a strong advocate for education, is donating his author profits to PARI for student science scholarships. Craig Gralley, a former CIA senior executive, served as an analyst, manager and chief speechwriter for three CIA directors. His debut novel was “Hall of Mirrors—Virginia Hall: America’s Greatest Spy of WWII” (Chrysalis, 2019), which has received numerous accolades, including by former CIA Director, General David Petraeus who praised “Hall of Mirrors” for its accurate portrayal of wartime espionage. Craig Gralley will have copies of his latest book for sale at the library. His book is a nominee for the annual Thomas Wolfe Literary Award, given by the Western North Carolina Historical Association. For more information on Gralley and his work, go to

Defining Meteor Showers

Meteor showers occur several times a year. To clarify a bit, on most nights you can look up and see a falling star, but when a flurry of meteors begins to rain down in the course of a few hours, this phenomenon is called a meteor shower. In fact, “falling stars” are not actually stars, of course, but bits and pieces of debris left behind by comets and a few asteroids. These tiny pieces hit the Earth’s atmosphere at tens of thousands of miles an hour. While most are faint and burn up in a fraction of a second, some are larger and produce unusually bright meteors. These can last many seconds as they race dramatically across the sky, producing an amazing light show (paraphrased from National Geographic’s Atlas of the Night Sky).

The Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, known as PARI, is a non profit astronomical observatory in the Pisgah National Forest, specializing in STEM education and space camps. There are many programs, camps, and activities that take place there. PARI is offering viewings to correspond with major meteor showers: Perseids – Friday, August 11 2023; Orionids – Friday, October 20, 2023; Leonids – Friday, November 17, 2023; and Geminids – Friday, December 15, 2023. These dates are the times when a viewer is most likely to see the brightest, boldest, blazing meteors. PARI is offering evenings guided with an astronomer, as well as the opportunity to camp overnite in your own tent after lectures with the scientists there. This would undoubtedly be an unforgettable camping trip for any family. For more information and to register, go to:

Asheville Museum of History

The Asheville Museum of History is at 283 Victoria Road in Asheville. It is still legally incorporated as the Western North Carolina Historical Association, still based in the Smith-McDowell House.The c1840 home has undergone extensive renovations and upgrades throughout to host all new exhibits and provide space for programming. Previously there were period rooms reflecting a wide range of historical periods–from Antebellum to the Victorian era. That model is very common for historic structures. The new focus is to use the space to share broader stories of WNC (and connect the house and those people to them). The museum will feature permanent, as well as rotating exhibits, regular educational lecture-type programs, children’s activities, and field trips. The Asheville Museum of History plans to have an exhibit on the renowned architect and tile maker Raphael Guastavino this fall. Guastavino, who moved here from Italy and built a home in Black Mountain, is best known for his tile vaulting techniques, as seen in Asheville at the Basilica of St.Lawrence which he designed in 1905.

This Saturday, August 12, the Museum is bringing a history hour to Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UNCA and via Zoom livestream at 10 AM. This special hybrid event features Willis Whichard, exploring the life of David Lowry Swain – NC governor and president of the University of North Carolina during pivotal years in the 1830s. For more information and tickets go to: