“Looks like you take pride in being a little nerdy…” This is an excerpt from an e-mail a fan sent me a couple of weeks ago. My immediate reaction was to become defensive, until I realized that it was really meant as a compliment of sorts. Now I’m going to embrace that label more than ever, because this list item caused me to get really down and dirty with my inner geek. In order to prepare myself for the must-see meteor shower of the summer, I did what any self-respecting dork would do: I researched everything there is to know about it.
The past two nights have been the host of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, which takes place around the second week of August every year; in fact, it’s one of the most predictable meteor showers in history, dating back to days of Ptolemy and the Roman Empire. The best times to view the show are between midnight and right before dawn. However, this year’s full moon made it exceedingly hard to see. In order to make sure I got the slightest dose of cosmic action, I stayed up past midnight for two nights in a row and set my alarm clock for a trusty 3:55 a.m. As I stumbled outside in my sleep-deprived stupor, I mentally clamored to find the Northeast skies, let alone the constellation Perseus, which is the derivative of the name ‘Perseid’. I ended up coming to the conclusion that the best I could do for my eyes was simply to face away from the moon. Leaned up against the back of our car, I scanned the sky for any confirmation that yes, tonight is the right night. I was able to make out three bright stars, the brightest of which was supposed to be Jupiter. I also picked up on a flickering dot in the sky that appeared to be a star moving ever so slowly across the inky black abyss. If my calculations are correct, it was the International Space Station. I patiently waited for my eyes to adjust and make out a meteor… as I stood there, neck fully craned, I pondered the differences between meteors and meteorites. After some extended research, I determined that the debris of a comet (which in this case is the Swift-Tuttle comet) in space is called a ‘meteoroid’, which is upgraded to ‘meteor’ once it enters the Earth’s atmosphere. If one of those little chunks of flaming rock hits the Earth, it is given the title of ‘meteorite’. In addition, if that’s not nerdy enough for you, these pebbles, literally only about the size of a pea, can travel up to 140,000 mph and reach temperatures of 3,000 degrees fahrenheit. Once I had been squinting for what felt like about ten minutes (a long time to sit and ponder lonesomely), I began seeing things. Not actual, tangible things, but the results of trying so hard to see something that just isn’t there. As my eyes began drooping right there in the middle of the driveway, I decided to throw in the towel and declare the next galactic year to be ‘mine’. I inched back into the house, still scanning the skies as a last ditch effort until I finally saw it: on the edge of the horizon was the brightest, most beautiful (and only) shooting star I’ve ever seen. Mission accomplished.
Love & Summer,
P.S. I learned a lot too (: