Joy (cithra) wrote,

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Cam and Josh very kindly invited me to go meteor watching last night - it was fantastic.

We went up into Snoqualmie - I'm not sure if we went clear to the top of the pass or not, I confess to dozing a little in the back of the car on the way. We went from freeway to paved road to gravel road (well maintained) and eventually stopped at a trailhead where there was a parking lot with a few cars (and a scary sign about it being a "high car prowl area" though on reflection that may be more of a problem during snow season when the area is more crowded).

After some discussion, we decided simply to set up in the middle of the parking lot, presuming that anyone planning to head up to the trailhead was probably already there (it was probably just about midnight at that point). So we spread groundcloth and blankets and settled in with our snacks to watch the show. It was a little chillier than I was expecting and I wished I had brought a few more layers or a thermos of hot drink, but between the blankets and Josh's greatcoat it was fine.

The meteors were just amazing - we all kept uttering little involuntary 'ooohs' and yips. It's kind of funny - part of me kept thinking "come on, get going already" as we lay there waiting and watching, as though this were actually some sort of manufactured and produced show rather than a natural phenomena completely outside of human control. Even if we hadn't seen a one, though, it would have been worth it just to get up out of the city lights to see the stars.

If you've read Nightfall by Isaac Asimov, he tries to convey some of the effect the advent of a thickly populated starfield can have on the viewer. Intellectually I know all sorts of facts about light pollution and the numbers of astronomical objects visible to the naked eye. None of that begins to touch the emotional impact of simply looking up into a sky thickly studded with lights of all manner of magnitude. Amateur astronomy has been a hobby I've taken up and laid down over the years enough that I am usually fairly confident about identifying some of the most common constellations: the Big and Little Dippers, Cassiopeia, Orion, the Pleiades. I couldn't identify a single one last night - there were simply too many stars for me to pick out the meaningful patterns. All triangles, nothing but triangles! What I first thought was Cassiopeia - useful if I could have made a positive ID since it is close to Perseus from whence the meteors are supposed to originate - began to look more like the Little Dipper on extended viewing; the meteors didn't help because they never did appear to originate any one particular place!

The meteors were indeed something - large, often with extended tails that lingered after the leading body had flared out. They came from all directions, and varied in color from orange to yellow to white. Really, it was entirely involuntary to croon with delight when one appeared - if only because with my usual masterful sense of timing, I would look down or blink or change sky quadrants just in time to hear my companions' intake of breath, though I'm sure I heralded some they missed in turn. It was really marvelous; just amazing. Great fireballs streaking through the sky, tiny pin-prick scratches of light, and the occasional satellite cruising stately past the corner of the eye... nothing else compares.

We lay out until stiffness and dozing overcame us, then arose and packed up just in time to avoid being run down by an SUV that came barreling up the mountain and into the lot. Then home and to bed. It was a grand time.

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