Friday, August 13, 2010

Tonight's The Night!

Are you a fan of meteor showers? Did you know that tonight is the peak of the annual Perseids Meteor Shower? A look at my local infrared radar is not very promising. Lots of cloud cover descending from the north, that probably won't clear until four or five hours from now. What a shame! I love the Pereids!

My very first encounter with the debris of the comet Swift-Tuttle, was in 1959, when I camped out in the back yard of my very best friend at the time. MK and me set up our WWII US Army surplus shelter halves, to form our pup tent, but we didn't sleep in the tent, because that would have defeated the purpose of our nighttime adventure. Instead we laid our sleeping bags out under the stars, and laid on our backs to gaze up at the wonders of the universe. This was 1959, in the days before sodium vapor and metal halide street lamps, so the insignificant amount of light emitted from the incandescent street lamps in front of the houses of our neighborhood, had little if any affect on our viewing of the stars in our back yards. Would that it were so today in suburban neighborhoods, basked in the glow of sodium and mercury vapor!

It was an absolutely wonderful night back in 1959, lying their on our backs on our sleeping bags, into the early morning hours. Not once, did MK's parents come outside to check on us, or even look out the window at us for the entire night! Imagine that happening with today's obsessively overprotective parents!

So there we laid, watching the heavenly show! It must have been a particularly heavy shower that year, or maybe my memory is simply trying to embellish the reality of the situation, but it seems that we were witnessing two or three shooting stars, every 60 seconds. Whether it was one, or three a minute way back then, is unimportant. What is important, is that I got to see the Perseid, while lying flat on my back, when I was just just 10 years old! At the time, I thought it was one of the most wonderful things I had ever seen!

Well..........I stepped out onto the rear deck about 30 minutes ago, just to see what I could see in the clearing above my house. It had rained earlier, and I had forgotten all about it. A rain soaked wooden deck, combined with the inevitable mildew that you get in Virginia's hot humid summers, made for a slick surface, and as soon as the sole of my red snakeskin flat hit the deck, my foot went sliding out from under me, and down I went! Being a month shy of 62, I always panic when I go down. Is this the fall that breaks my hip, I wonder? So far I have been lucky. Tonight I just got back up, brushed myself off, and resumed my star gazing. Thankfully all is OK!

Living 40 miles outside of town has it's advantages if you are a stargazer. The awful light pollution of city street lamps is not a problem out here. Still, you have to acclimate your vision to the night sky, so it takes 20-30 minutes outside, before your eyes are able to take in the wonder of the beautiful blanket of stars, that surrounds our globe. The Milky Way is clearly visible, once you get your eyes adapted to the low light. Unfortunately for the 20-30 minutes that I stayed out on the deck, I only saw one lousy little meteor! I'm not blaming this year's Perseids, so much as my own difficulty in adapting my eyesight, from the light of my I-Mac screen, to the pitch black of the night sky, and the fact that I have but one little patch of sky over my house, thanks to all of the surrounding trees.

I suppose I could walk down by the pond, where the sky is wider, but then I would surely be eaten by mosquitoes! I don't know about you, but I don't particularly relish the idea of contracting West Nile Virus, or Equine encephalitis, just to get a glimpse of the stars!

As you all know, I love Gustav Mahler. Last night I made a horrible mistake, when I attributed his third symphony, movements I-III to what I had actually been listening too. In reality, what I had been listening to, was Malher's first symphony! Equally as good as anything else he has ever done, and maybe even better, but I won' t quibble, since all that he has done has been exceptional!

All my love!

Melissa XX


Lucy Melford said...

Oh, can you see these showers from the UK? I'll be coming home in the dark tonight, through open country, and would be enthralled to see something.


Amy K. said...

I do so love meteor showers, comets, and other stellar phenomenon! I'm sorry you didn't get to see anything where you were. I had no idea of any meteor shower tonight, so I missed it too. :(

By the way, have you seen my latest post? I was looking forward to hearing your opinion on it, but alas... nothing. Unlike a meteor shower though, an excellent Melissa comment can come by anytime. ;) Hugs and love to you. :)

Angel said...

We nearly always have clear skies here in the desert, though I forgot to go out and look last night. Maybe tonight.

BTW, don't fret about your age... my fiance is two years older than you, and..... oops, nevermind. LOL

Elly said...

Hi Melisa,
We sat outside last night and saw only one meteorite. The skies were clear but it was back to work so had to retire early. And instead of Mahler it was Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance'. I do the classics on Eleanor time.

Veronica said...

I'm glad you weren't hurt by your fall!

Sweetie and I lay in the two-person hammock for a bit last night, but we don't have a very good view with our own trees in the way, not to mention the horrible light pollution. She said she saw one meteorite, but it wasn't really the best time of night, so we didn't stay long.

Several years ago, we just happened to be staying at a bed and breakfast at the right time in a place with almost no light pollution. We sat outside for quite a while and saw lots of meteorites that evening. Only time I've really seen the Perseids!

Caroline said...

I used to see them when on family holidays on the south coast of England way back before the absurd waste of energy using street lights which send most light in every other direction but on to the roadway!

Started seeing the streaks walking home from a neigbours house at midnight then sat out in the garden till numbness from the cold set in just before the clouds rolled in from the sea. Priceless show.

Caroline xxx

Two Auntees said...

The last time I had to chance to see the showers, I had to get up around 3 in the morning to see them. The night sky was full of showers way until early dawn's light. I live on the east coast, about the same longitude as Melissa.