UNDER THE SUN
Mother Nature's November fireworks
November 24, 2001
Steamboat Springs — There is something perfect about a meteor shower. An energy is in the air that stimulates a curiosity, a welcomed anxiety and creates a memorable bond between the people around you and the place you are standing.
The meteor shower last week was an example of perfection and proof that every now and then the chaotic behavior of the universe and Mother Nature works out perfectly for us little humans.
I started watching the sky at about midnight at a friend’s meteor shower get-together. The shower started slow, meteors falling every now and then, but by 1:30 a.m., the white streaks in the sky crescendoed to numerous visible meteors falling every minute. The most compelling element of the shower, I thought, was the intensity of some of the meteors burning in the atmosphere. Some were so intense they burned long enough to point out to a friend before fading away. Plus, the remnants of the streaks stayed long after the meteors burned away, like gray scars on the black sky.
Our group, five of us in all, witnessed numerous instances where a couple of meteors fell simultaneously next to each other and twice the burning tails crossed paths, one creating a perfect “X.”
In fact, thanks to a few forces of nature that made the shower truly magical, the perfect “X” was a symbolic peak of a perfect evening.
Aside from the obvious such as the fact that the meteor shower was happening at night for people in the western United States the most practical perfect element in the shower was that it happened on a Saturday night. That meant it was feasible for people with daytime jobs to stay up until 4 a.m. to watch the duration of the shower and sleep late the next day.
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On top of that, Saturday night just happened to be a new moon, meaning the moon was fully shadowed by the earth and could not be seen in the sky. Hence the sky was perfectly dark. Incidentally, the new moon was the perfect halfway point between two full moons in one month, which is pretty rare.
But what really makes me smile about the perfection of Saturday night happened at about 4 a.m. Right when the shower began to tail off, low clouds began to inch in through the valley. This was a weather system that was reported to threaten the visibility of the shower. But it held off, not spoiling the sight.
I didn’t think about the perfection of the evening until the next day, when I awoke and a dusting of snow had covered the ground around my home. I thought about the five of us gathered around a fire, feeling the warmth of shared stories while experiencing the shower above our heads and how delicate that moment was.
One hitch from Mother Nature could have negated the entire experience, while the mixture of celestial timing and geography constructed the perfect setting for the evening. It was a few hours of perfection, where Mother Nature and the universe seemed in balance for us to enjoy.