Many, Many Meteors

by Eugene Martin | Dec 1, 2022 | 0 comments

My brother and I stepped excitedly out of the darkened house into the exhilarating night air. The sky showed no sign of dawn, but in the west an impending cloud threatened to destroy our chance to see the swiftly flying meteors.

Grabbing a pile of blankets, we made our way to a comfortable spot and eased underneath them. After much shuffling, all became quiet. For a moment we lay there reveling in the sight the glowing stars furnished. The awesomely displayed pinpoints of light further reminded me that no mere human could fully comprehend the vast distances of space.

My thoughts changed abruptly as a white streak flashed through the star-studded sky and ended in a glow of light slowly fading from view.

“Wow,” I said softly, compelled to whisper by the beauty of my first meteor of this Geminid meteor shower.

Another meteor streaked a dazzling path through the star-spangled sky, then another and another.

Some of the meteors appeared so close I thought I might be able to hear them. But no amount of ear-straining benefited me in the way of meteor listening.

As five minutes rolled around, I whispered, “How many have you seen by now?”

“Five,” came my brother’s muffled reply.

“I’ve got six.”

A backward celestial question mark vied for my attention and got it. “What’s that constellation called? That backward question mark?”

“That’s Leo the Lion, and over to the east is his tail.”

“And—oh, yeah—why do they call this meteor shower Geminid?”

“Well, all the meteors seem to head directly away from the Gemini constellation. See…”

His voice trailed to nothing as a huge meteor sizzled across the vast black dome and sailed into the encroaching cloud hovering in the west.

“That was a big one,” said an awestruck voice.

After watching a few smaller meteors, I tried to distinguish some of the larger constellations. Orion silently hovered over the western horizon, his feet lost in the milky clouds. Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper twinkled brightly.

“It’s fifteen minutes now. How many meteors have you seen?”

“Eighteen,” I answered.

A slow, steady movement arrested my attention, and I peered at the slowest-moving meteor I had ever seen…oh, it was just a satellite.

Orion’s belt twinkled invitingly. I peered hopefully at the lowest star to see if I could spot any sign of nebulosity, but it was far too faint to be seen with the unaided eye. It was not long, however, before I spotted the Orion Nebula placed conveniently in the mighty hunter’s sword.

Suddenly, with a gasp of pleasure, I saw Orion shoot a fiery arrow out of his bow. The meteor sailed smoothly across the sky and disappeared over the horizon.

“Did you see that one over toward Orion?” I inquired.

“No, but I saw a bright one in the east.”

For half an hour we lay there silently with only an occasional rapid intake of breath when a big one exploded.

The forty-five minute and fifty-four meteor mark came, and so did the clouds, spoiling our view. The forerunning fingers of light indicated the coming of dawn, worsening matters. So we stiffly got up, well-satisfied with our morning under the stars.

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