I’ve had a fascination with stars since I was six years old. I had to get up insanely early to go to the hospital to get my tonsils removed. When we stepped out of the house, I was awestruck by a meteor shower that took my breath away. So many stars were “falling” that I wondered how any were left in the sky. I suspect it was the Leonids in 1966, which, according to Space.com, “…was one of the most stupendous Leonid meteor displays ever witnessed [which] took place over central and western North America.” I was hooked!
My adult years were often spent admiring the stars, looking for meteorite showers, and being disappointed. Nothing has ever compared with that night in1966. When my husband and I took our young children camping, we would scout out the perfect meadow, bring our sleeping bags and blankets out, and have a huge pile of folks and dogs looking up at the stars above. Those were fond memories for me, and I hope, for my children.
We went on a trip to the Grand Canyon early this year and were there during the Quadrantids meteorite shower earlier this month. I was the only one in the family willing to go out in near-zero weather to look at the stars during the short peak of the shower, but I pulled on my parka in the dark, so as not to disturb my night vision, and went out into the cold. For once, there was no light pollution, and the stars were astounding! They were so bright and spectacular, they took my breath away. I could see the milky way again for the first time in years. There were so many bright stars that it took me a while to find the constellation of origin for this particular shower, the big dipper and Bootes. You may think that the big dipper is the easiest one to find, and that is true in an area of light pollution where there are few choices. But there were so many stars that it was not so obvious at first. I took my time looking and found it soon enough. I saw several meteorites take short little flights across the sky.
In the dark of the night, alone, I felt cradled by the darkness and the sky. Millions of stars were there, befriending me. It felt oddly intimate. I wondered how I could be so lucky to share that moment with millions of my friends. I questioned myself – friends? Then I just enjoyed the feeling and stopped analyzing. It was phenomenal!