Thursday, August 11, 2016

August Meteor Shower

We have a long family history with the Perseid meteor shower.  Starting when our children were of early elementary school age, the four of us spent many happy evenings gazing skyward.  At that time I owned an old beat International Harvester  pickup truck.  We threw a foam mattress, a couple of sleeping bags and the two children into the bed of the truck.  Our plan was to drive to the top of the ridge away from village lights and find a spot with huge sky.  Safely off the road, mom and dad climbed into the back of the truck and the four of us found a way to lie flat on our backs.  Sky events are never easy.  Long periods of nothing but stars were briefly interrupted by quickly disappearing flashes of light as a meteor streaked across the sky.  An occasional satellite or airplane provided us with something different to see.  Oriented in different directions, someone always missed a meteor that others saw.  Trying to keep the eyes focused on nothing is not easy.  There are so many stars and groups of stars to draw your eyes into sharp focus.  Sighting a meteor is not common since they usually fall just outside of the place that has captured one gaze.

Tonight two elderly parents ventured out into the yard following the customary nighttime bathroom call.   Following our flushes, we were delighted to find starry skies. With an old sleeping bag on the ground to give us a dry place to lie down, we faced the problem of safely placing creaky bodies on the sleeping bag.  My move might have resembled a controlled fall and I was soon flat on my back looking skyward.

One of the problems with August nights in New York is the valley fog that forms.  Early morning hours are the best time to see meteors as that is when the atmosphere is moving into the path of the meteors.  Moonset also dictated early morning viewing this year.  As we watched and saw many meteors, the forming fog slowly blocked out the stars nearer to the horizon.  The meteors were originating from nearly directly overhead so the shrinking view spot was not a problem.  The eastern sky did begin to brighten as sunrise drew nearer.

After a rather long and pleasant lying together under the stars, the forming fog made it obvious that we needed to get up and go inside.  The getting up did present some problems.  Oh, the things that the young simply take for granted.  After rolling over to a face down position, hands were pushed back and the rear end raised.  I have heard of a yoga position named downward facing dog and suppose that I used something like that position to ready myself for the next move.  Ever so slowly hands were pushed away from the ground.  Creaking to a fully upright position, I stood motionless as blood returned to my head and balance firmed. With the aid of a flashlight we both  found our way safely back inside.

It was pleasant to recall really great moments from our past.  We did see many meteors tonight and each missed some that the other saw.  No deer snorted at our presence and the scent of skunk was absent from the night air.  The past two hours were an unqualified success.

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