Perseids

In the late 80s, as a child, I had a subscription to a children’s science magazine called Odyssey. I would read it cover-to-cover and especially enjoyed the astronomy articles. One issue referenced a coming meteor shower and gave times for viewing it. I eagerly awaited the coming of the meteors. I awoke early on the proper Saturday, somewhere around 3:30 or 4:00 A.M. I made my way into the dew-covered backyard and laid out a lawn chair. For a long while I laid there staring into the dark morning sky waiting for the stars to fall. I was alone in the dark yard surrounded by the sounds of the night creatures—the frogs, the crickets, the various noises from the nearby woods. I watched and waited. No star ever fell. Later I would discover the times listed in my magazine were intended for a different time-zone. Over 20 years later, and I had still never seen a meteor shower. Sure, I’d seen numerous falling and shooting stars—small white flashes jetting across the sky—but never the main event.

Last Wednesday night, Erika and I drove up into the Angeles Crest mountains to watch the Perseids. The real flurry of meteors was alleged to show in the wee hours of the morning, but flashy precursors were supposed to appear as early as 11:00 P.M. (proper time-zone this time). We laid atop my car and then upon the ground watching the sky and often shielding our eyes from frequent passing headlights (the excitement of the coming shower had made the highway through the mountains oddly popular) for nearly an hour. We saw over a dozen. They were spectacular—large varicolored spears of light shot across the sky every few minutes. Occasionally one would appear suddenly off to one side illuminating my peripheral vision. Some would be gone in an instant, others would trail through the sky for a few seconds fading slowly into the night. My disappointment as a child was rectified.

We also saw an adorable fox run past into the overgrowth.


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