Geminids 2004

I am a little shamefaced right now. The power just flipped off for about half an hour. I went outside to take a look around and see if other areas of Yona were without power. It seemed fairly localized to Camp Witek. Then I saw a brilliant flash across the sky. I looked up to see the flaring of a bright meteor. Then another just a moment later. “Ahhh,” I sighed, “it’s the Geminid meteor shower.” I’d completely forgotten about one of my favorite astronomical events. I guess the anxiety about typhoons and my upcoming trip pushed it from my brain.

The Geminids are my favorite meteor shower because they are consistently enjoyable, unlike those damn Leonids that are forever obscured by November’s clouds and rain. The Geminids are bright and sufficiently frequent that even casual observers sense that something is going on in the skies. And the radiant is easy to point out for people, being so near major landmarks like Orion and the Pleiades.

I went looking for Comet Machholz, which is supposedly visible to the naked eye in Eridanus tonight, but it wasn’t that dark. I guess I should have gone back inside for my binoculars, but then I would miss the spectacular display above me.

I stood outside for about 45 minutes, gazing up at the immensity of the night sky. I silently thanked whatever was responsible for this pocket of darkness and clear sky on a windy, cloud streaked night. I thought about past Decembers, sitting up late with friends and gazing out at past meteor showers. Bleary eyed and suffused with drunken gaiety, we would “Ooooh” and “Aaaaah” at each speck of dust hurtling itself into brilliant annihilation against the atmosphere. Those were good times, I remember them well.

When the power came back I sadly watched the night sky disappear in a pall of sodium streetlights and the twinkling strands of Christmas decorations that adorn the neighbor’s house. Nothing last forever.