Have you ever seen a meteor shower like this one? Me neither. Actually, up until last night, I'd never seen one of any kind, although I have done my best to.
For several years when my girls were living at home, we tried and tried. Someone would hear news of an upcoming meteor shower, and we would set our clocks to get up in the middle of the night for the show. We'd go downstairs and look out the window, and without fail, the clouds would be too dense to see through. We'd curse the weather and go back to bed, and I would mumble something about how once before I die, I'd like to see a meteor shower. One time, we missed the thing because of clouds, and the next day people talked about what a great view they had from a hillside just on the other side of town. This is a small town, you know, so they couldn't have been more than a mile away. How is that possible, that you can barely see the trees on the west side but can see an entire meteor shower on the east?
Well, last night, I was determined. The Orionid meteor shower was passing through the atmosphere, debris from Halley's Comet, and I read that the hours before sunrise would be the best time to see it. So, I set my clock for 3:45, thinking it might take me 15 minutes or so to realize why I'd set my clock, get up, put on a coat, and go outside. At 3:45, I smacked the clock and stumbled to the bathroom to have a look out the window. Clouds, nothing but clouds. So, I went back to bed, and I seethed. But then I thought about how the sky wasn't completely covered in clouds, and what kind of person would I be if I gave up so easily? How many times do you get a chance to see a meteor shower anyway, and I would hate to hear about people seeing a great show from that eastern hillside tomorrow when I didn't even bother to go out into my own backyard.
So, finally, around 4:15 or so, I went downstairs and put a jacket on over my jammies and threw on a pair of shoes. I went out to the backyard and found myself under a sky full of bright stars, brighter than I could remember seeing in this town. The clouds had moved on. So, I aimed a chair in the direction of a good view, and within about 30 seconds, I saw my first meteor. I actually clapped for it.
Out there in my jammies and light jacket, I was terribly uncomfortable sitting in the cold metal chair, so I went back in for a warmer coat and a scarf and settled in again for more of the shower. After about 20 or 25 minutes of staring at the sky, I saw a total of six meteors including one that was sort of like dud fireworks—it flashed and then sputtered straight down, flashing on and off until it finally burned up.
Six "shooting stars" is hardly a remarkable meteor shower to witness, and I still say that some day before I die, I'd like to see a real shower, the kind that makes you gasp in amazement and overwhelms you so that you talk about it for years to come. Remember that time we saw that meteor shower, a chance of a lifetime?
I'm still waiting to collect that memory, but at least I got to see something.