This week's Perseids meteor shower was great fun, if you could see it from your vantage point. I could not (too many clouds) but some good soul had more luck than I and was kind enough to post this short video clip on YouTube so all of us could see it:
I have had several opportunities to see the Perseids meteor shower, since they always occur in late summer when I have often been visiting my relatives in the dark-skied wilds of Idaho. One such viewing stands out vividly in my memory as much because of the events on the ground as those that were occurring in the sky.
On this particular visit, I was traveling with a friend and my two sons, aged 17 and 21 at the time. We were staying with my grandmother in the small town of Mackay the night the Perseids were supposed to hit their peak. To get a good view, we decided to pile in the car and drive 20 minutes up valley to the cemetery.
A cemetery may not seem such a great place to visit in the middle of the night, but it's perfect for star-gazing. This particular cemetery is far out in the country and no artificial lighting exists for miles around it.
Even in August, it was a little chilly that night. After pulling our rented SUV into the gates of the cemetery and parking between the sagebrush, we all piled out on top of the car, some on the hood, some on its roof. Somebody, I'm no longer sure who, decided it would be a good idea to pop an Enya CD into the car stereo system and crank up the volume. We had been listening to this CD for days as we drove from Salt Lake to Yellowstone and, eventually, to Mackay, so we all knew the words--by heart.
Within minutes, we were singing along with Enya--loudly--as the meteor show heated up above us. If anybody had happened to drive by (but nobody did) we might have made an odd sight: four people lounging on the roof of an SUV, singing at the top of our lungs, and shouting, "there's one!" every few minutes.
It may not have been the most spectacular Perseids event in history, but it is by far my favorite.
If you didn't catch this week's meteor shower, there's another happening in November: the Leonids. And there will be a near-new moon, so we might be able to get a good view. Mark your calendars now. I am!