Last night and tonight, thousands of people have and will be stood, sat, laying down, and transfixed as a captivated audience looking to the skys above us. The reason for this is the Perseid meteor shower, which the planet earth passes through annually on it’s orbit. This has been widely publicised in the media, including the BBC who have given it extensive news coverage, which has helped to generate interest in this phenomenon amongst members of the public. Images of the meteor shower have been widely distributed via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Stargazing is nothing new, and neither is participating in activities relating to this as part of a recreation experience, indeed there are many established planetarium visitor attractions that specialise in astro-interpretation globally, including: Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, UK; Carter Observatory, Wellington, New Zealand; and Adler Planetarium, Chicago, USA.
A meteor is something that the majority of us will never personally see for ourselves, so the Perseid meteor shower presents a real opportunity to see something that is both novel and unique (you’ll only ever see each meteor once if you do see one). Of course, meteors are not a part of the entertainment industry as they are not man-managed or controlled, but they can provide entertainment for audiences of onlookers that are looking to the skies. Solar and lunar eclipses, comets, planets in our galaxy becoming visible and star constellations can also provide entertainment in this way. So it’s time for another new portmanteau to define this entertaining phenomenon….I propose astrotainment.