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Meteoric Rise

When the “To Do” list got depressingly oppressive tonight, I decided to bake cookies. Which worked out well, because then I had a snack to eat on my excursion to see the Perseid Meteors.

I baked chocolate chip cookies, with Heath bar toffee bits and oats added, and also a little over half the flour replaced with coconut flour just for the heck of it. And they came out perfect. Either the coconut flour or the fact that i forgot to add the egg until after the flour made them come out much more coherent than usual and they did not spread on the baking sheet as much. Instead they held together as very nice little cookies, about 65 in total in the batch.

All while I was baking, the Yankees were playing Texas, and not doing terrible well. I had a quick dinner — a fresh farm-share tomato I just got today, just sliced and salted, mmmmm. And a farm-share chuck steak. And then I tried to get some work done, but the Yankees were down 6-1 and FEH.

The sky seemed to be getting cloudier by the minute, and at ten pm I gave up trying to get any work done, packed up the cookies and my iPhone, and hit the road west on Route 2 in search of darker, clearer skies. I figured I’d drive until the game ended and then get out and see if I could see anything at all. I decided if I saw even a single meteor, the trip would be a success.

Miraculously, as I drove west, the yankees chipped away at the Rangers’ lead, and I got out from under the heavy cloud to where it was just haze. I passed I-495, and came to the exit for Mt. Elam Road in Leominster. I decided to pull off. I drove around for a short while until i saw a sign that said “Jewish Cemetery Next Left.” i found the small, unlit cemetery with no trouble, and parked my car in the middle. The place was ringed by trees but had no lights, and in the direction my car was facing (west/northwest) it was dark.

By then the Yankees had cut the lead to two runs, and were coming to bat again. I lay down on the hood of the car with the streaming audio feed from WCBS playing via my iPhone. The night was starting to get chilly, but the hood of the car was comfortably warm. No sooner had my head touched the windshield than a bright streak of light cut horizontally across the sky! Success!

The sky was quite hazy and I in the clearest patch I could make out the Northern Cross, aka Cygnus, and the three stars of the “Summer Triangle,” Deneb, Vega, and Altair. Behind me toward Boston, the only thing that could be seen through the haze and the light pollution was Jupiter.

As I lay there, enjoying the night air and the stars, Cygnus looking like an old friend from the Wyoming sky I stared at a lot last month during Launch Pad, the Yankees rallied to take the lead. And Mariano Rivera then came on, gave up a leadoff triple, but did not allow the man to score, nailing down a save. It was one of the best games of the year.

Then I called corwin, who is in Chicago for a seminar, and told him about the game, the cookies, and the one meteor. He told me about his leisure day in the city, dinner in Greektown, and so on. I told him I considered my one meteor to be a successful outing.

And then I saw another one! This one truly looked like it was “falling” and skipping over the ripples of the outer atmosphere. I checked the location of Perseus using the SkyVoyager app… yes, both meteors I saw were likely Perseids, appearing to emanate from the direction of Perseus.

Star-gazing and meteor-fishing are in so many ways opposite pursuits. When we look at the stars, we gaze millions of years into the past, as the light that hits our eyes has been traveling unimpeded for millions of years before the photons are finally absorbed. We gaze into a timescale of nearly unimaginable profundity where massive stars do not appear to move. Meteors, on the other hand, are bits of dust that have been whirling around our solar system, and whose light exists only for that brief moment of annihilation when they hit the atmosphere.

Having caught one another up on our days, corwin and I said goodnight, then, and I basked on the warm car like a cat for another half hour or so, listening to ambient piano music on my iPhone — in fact I was listening to the astronomically appropriately named Escape Philosophy, Brood XIV (http://stretta.bandcamp.com/album/brood-xiv). I ate some cookies and did not see another meteor. The clouds thickened, and when it reached the point where only four points of light were visible at all–Jupiter, Vega, Altair, and Deneb–I decided to head for home.

Thursday night more of the Perseid peak is in the offing, but who knows if it will be even cloudier? I made my two wishes on falling stars tonight.

4 Comments

  1. Jude says:

    That sounds idyllic, really. You were out in our neck of the woods (Leominster)! I thought about going out looking for a nice dark spot for meteor-spotting last night, but my wife is a mosquito-magnet, so that makes nighttime expeditions difficult. I’m glad to read about yours, though. :)

    1. ctan says:

      I’m usually the first one bitten by mosquitoes, too. I had brought bug spray but ended up not needing it — it was chilly enough that they were kind of dormant, I guess, as I didn’t get a single bite. or maybe that spot is sprayed, dunno.

      If you’re looking for it, to get there I took Mt. Elam Road to Electric Avenue, left on Electric Ave and then left on something called Rollstone Road, and it was on the right just past Vine Street. I found it on Google maps today.

  2. Ah, jealousy. It sounds wonderful. I’m wondering if I want to get up at 2 or 3 in the morning to see if the skies clear, and then head for Coney Island in hopes of seeing something. Doubtful all around. There are some disadvantages to living the city.

    1. ctan says:

      I’m glad I went, as it looks like the cloud cover will be pretty thick tonight here. And I have writing I have to get done…

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