Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I went for a walk down the Cottonwood trail. At 2am. Cold.

A mile and a half from home I stopped to look around. Unsure which way was east and unfamiliar with the Leo constellation, I figured my chances were slim of seeing any meteors.

A few short streaks caught my attention but by the time I turned to look they were gone. Was my imagination playing tricks on me? Or my eyes?

I had given them time to adjust. It was dark enough that I could see more stars than usual, but the airport was only a mile to the south and its revolving beacon would occasionally escape from behind the trees to hit me in the face. Certainly not ideal conditions.

A train went by. Somehow the noise made it harder to see meteors. I'm sure of it.

I had walked and watched for about a half hour each and had only (maybe) seen four short streaks. Standing still on a snowy path in 25°F air isn't much fun so I turned to head home.

A car came down a nearby road with high beams so I faced back towards the north to avoid getting blinded. Figured I may as well look up while I'm waiting... WHOA!

That was definitely a meteor! It looked like a narrow airplane contrail, two or three times as long as the shorter streaks I had seen. Unlike the others, this one lingered in the sky for a few seconds before fading into the black.

I saw a meteor!

It was still cold so I was still heading home. I kept my eyes on the sky as I walked. Another questionable mini-streak heading towards the handle on the Big Dipper.

The path curved and I was facing almost due west. The foothills were faint in the distance, only visible by their snow cover. I saw a very bright mini-streak that looked like it was going directly down into the mountain. I thought they were supposed to be coming out of the east -- did this one make it all the way to the other horizon?

Continuing on I saw another streak, leaving the front of Orion's belt, heading diagonally down and away from the hunter.

At this point I had seen streaks in all parts of the sky. Not at all what I had expected but definitely a good show. In total I saw 9 streaks: the one long-lasting one, the bright one in the west, another shorter in length but longer in duration, and then 6 other minis.

When I got home I spent some time in the planetarium before heading to bed for a few hours.

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