The night was perfect–the air crisp, the sky clear. Conditions aligned beautifully for the unveiling of the Perseid meteor shower. At 11 PM, my husband and I packed our chairs in the truck bed and took off down the road to find a dark place to watch the show. When fields and pastures surround your residence, it’s hard not to take advantage of the darkness that isn’t afforded those who live in suburbia. Regardless of the immediate darkness, nearby cities still cast light into the sky so I couldn’t see the millions of pinpricks that are out there. I only saw the most stars in the darkest part of the sky.
Out of the dozen or so meteors that whizzed by during our hour of watching, I saw half of them, thanks to my attention being on the wrong part of the sky. My direction-savvy life partner had me facing the right direction to see the meteors, but it seemed each time I looked left there would be “the brightest one ever seen” to the right. Finally I stopped trying to see the whole sky and focused my attention directly above me in the darkest part of the sky and let my peripherals take care of the rest.
Another reason I missed so many of the meteors was because airplanes distracted me. The little lights creeping amongst the stationary dots draws your attention as if it’s a meteor without a tail until you register its blink. By then the real attraction is come and gone. Cooperating conditions don’t always appear when you want them to. But when they do, it’s best you don’t waste your time tracking airplanes instead of meteors.
As we stargazed last night, I told my husband that as a kid I used to want to be a rocket scientist and work for NASA, because when you’re a kid and everyone is learning the basics, the possibilities are endless as to what you can be. My husband laughed at me and cited my complete disdain of math as a discouraging factor. While that is true, the stars fascinate me. I’ve always wanted a nice telescope but never actually bought one. One of the facts that stuck with me from my elementary astronomy lessons was that often we can see with our human eyes the light from stars that have long since died. It’s a stunning reminder as you stare into the dark night that light still shines brightly although the source is no longer. So maybe the meteors draw attention because they’re rare, but their light only shines for a brief second before disappearing. I’d rather be a star whose light emanates whether cloudy or clear and my source be so intense that even after I’m gone the light can still be treasured in the darkness.