On the way home tonight I saw a brilliant meteor flash across the sky. Given the amount of light pollution in Austin, it must have been quite impressive to anyone seeing it way out in the country. It broke up as it entered the atmosphere with thin streaks coming off the main one. Really beautiful and it perked me up for a good hour afterward. I checked when I got home (thanks internets!) and we are indeed in the midst of the annual Leonids meteor shower which should peak on Thursday.
Two memories of meteor watching come to mind. When I was 14, my Boy Scout troop (yeah, I am yet another gay Eagle Scout) went to Florida Sea Base in the Keys to earn scuba certification. We happen to be there during the Perseids meteor shower and due to the distance from any cities, the viewing was bound to be good. In my typically spazzy way, I told my troop about it and was answered with a resounding thud of indifference. Looking at meteors was apparently not cool, even for the academic nerds that made up a good portion of my fellow scouts. As the prime viewing time approached, I settled myself on the sand volleyball court to enjoy the show.
Imagine my surprise when a couple guys from the uber-macho Varsity Scout troop that was also diving at Sea Base joined me a few minutes later. Their nickname among the teaching staff was The Airwolves for the way they quickly huffed and puffed their way through airtanks while on dives. Where my buddies and I could stay down around an hour, these guys breathed their tanks dry in 25 minutes. Maybe it was all that muscle. They were intimidating to all of us skinny guys, at least until we whipped them at volleyball. Tall and gawky is preferable to short and pumped on a volleyball court I guess.
Anyway, these guys had heard me passionately describing the wonders of meteor showers to my troop and, perhaps secure in their sense of personal coolness, decided to see it for themselves. We spent the next hour or so staring up at the night sky in relative silence save for the oohs, aahs, and "did you see that?!"s that come inevitably in response to a lively meteor shower.
The other memory I have is of a near-perfect evening I spent with my friends Amy and Carole. The night started with a bracing swim at Barton Springs pool during free hour. As often happens, we were ravenous after swimming and so stopped at Sandy's for burgers and frozen custard. Sandy's food isn't the best, but it's damn cheap and the look of the place is classic. Eating out back at the picnic tables, it was just right. I can't remember what we talked about, but I do remember laughing a lot. We lingered over our food, unwilling to end a great night too soon. Then I remembered the meteor shower.
Knowing we needed a darker sky than we could get in Austin, we decided to head west on 290 towards Manor. We pulled over at some sort of utility installation that lacked floodlights and spread out a blanket on the ground. Shortly after stretching out, we saw our first streak. Once every several minutes we'd see another one. As meteor showers go, it was relatively unimpressive in both number and quality with only a few long, bright streaks. Still, it was a great reason to keep a wonderful night going.
Meteor showers rock. I wish I had the photographic equipment and knowledge to take some pictures on Thursday.