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Chasing Down The Muse: Chasing down a meteor shower

December 16, 2010|By Catharine Cooper

"Star light, star bright …."

"The Geminids are coming!"

That's what my neighbor Jeanne proclaimed as she advised me that the Geminid meteor shower was set to peak around 1 a.m. Monday night. She planned to hunker down in her front patio with pillows and down quilts for the nighttime show. Since the Loreto night temperatures had been in the high 50s, it sounded like a fun idea.

I thought back to the year that co-columnist Cherril and I had set out to Anza-Borrego to view the Leonid shower. We packed the car to the gills with spotting scope, binoculars, tripod and camera, warm clothes, food and water and headed to the desert. We had booked a room at the small hotel near the entrance to the park.

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Cherril and I had hours to kill before the show was to begin (why are all meteor showers at 1 a.m. and later? Duh – dark skies) and headed for the hotel restaurant for dinner. The small dining room and bar were filled with like minded-star gazers — which gave us second thoughts.

Who were all these odd people dressed in dark clothing? They all seemed to have sallow skin, and eerily wide open eyes. These were professional star geeks, while we were merely amateurs. Could they actually be of alien descent? Some errant strand of DNA buried in their systems that sent them into the dark of night, searching for their original home?

We fled the restaurant, donned our warmest clothes, and headed out to Fount's Point off one of the long dirt roads in the state park. It was sufficiently remote to be free of the influence of incandescent light. We parked, set up our beach chairs overlooking the valley and the east, poured hot coffee out of the Thermos into our cups, and began to wait.

And wait. And wait. Was that one? We both witnessed a tiny streak across the eastern sky. Then a second. Then nothing. Back to waiting. Where were the hundred or so that were supposed to light up the sky? And why was it so darned cold?

After an hour, we retreated to the car, opened the sunroof, turned on the heater and tried to stop shivering. By the time we gave our search up, we had seen maybe 20 — certainly not the promised 100, but worth the adventure.

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