Saturday, January 03, 2009

 

Quadrantids


I woke up this morning at 5:30, checked that the water was still flowing, let the dog out of Z's room, started the coffee, and put on my long down coat, insulated boots, gloves and hat. Then I turned off all the house lights and went outside to look at the Quadrantid meteor shower.

The western US and Canada were supposed to be able to see the best shower activity in their northern skies starting a few hours after midnight. By 5:30 am, although that activity had already peaked an hour or so earlier, since there was no moon and the skies were clear, I decided it was worth a try.

It was -30 F out there; so it was obvious I wouldn't be staying out very long - especially with the dog who wouldn't stay quietly inside if I went out without her, but also wasn't going to stay out very long either. I walked quickly away from the house into an open area and looked out into the sky.

I posted just a day or so ago about those gazillions of stars shining out there - especially when it's so cold and dry. I can almost hear a crackling static coming from the stars. Wow, even without the meteors this is such a profound experience.

After a minute the first streak from overhead toward the east, arcing about 1/4 of the sky. Then the next from the north arcing to the southeast. Then another, and another. Then a flash without a trail - that one must have been coming straight at us. I looked to the west and saw a streak going across half the sky from east to west. These guys were streaming in all directions. We must be hitting this swarm head-on.

After ten minutes, my face and neck had gotten pretty cold (I forgot to put on a scarf, dang it), and the dog was sighing rather pointedly, so I forced myself to go back inside.

Celestial events like these always remind me of the vastness of the cosmos; and of our true insignificance in the larger scheme despite our arrogant assumptions of importance. Maybe if we all took the time to look outward more often, we'd all find a little more humility and experience a better sense of kinship with everything else that shares this tiny spec of rock that is endlessly spinning a circle around our small star as we each journey along our all-too-brief paths across this unimaginably large and complex universe.

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