Stargazing

November 17, 2009

Early this morning there was a meteor shower over much of North America, the Leonid Meteor Shower, which, disappointingly, is so named because it occurs around the constellation Leo, not in honor of some Russian guy. Crazy person that I am, I got up and trudged out to the athletic field near my house to see the show, and brought my camera and tripod in the (vane) hope of capturing come celestial magic on film. Here is what I learned:

1. One of the very very rare benefits of having a two-year-old who refuses to sleep in his own bed and refuses to sleep in your bed without constant kicking and squirming is that it makes it comparatively easy to get up in the middle of the night to watch a meteor shower.

2. One meteor every thirty seconds may qualify as a pretty exciting event for the astronomical cognoscenti, but thirty seconds lying on a bench in the middle of the night in November, trying not to blink, feels like a fucking eternity.

3. West Hartford at 3:00 a.m. is probably the most hauntingly quiet place in the world. I felt like a had to be careful not to rustle leaves on the sidewalk too much so I wouldn’t wake anyone.

4. There are birds out in the cold nights in West Hartford, birds that seem alarmingly close and loud when you are lying quietly on a bench in a dark field, birds that sound like they should be in that swampy world where Yoda lives.

5. It is hard to drink hot tea while you are lying down on a bench in a dark field, even from a travel mug.

6. There is a lot to be said for lying in the dark and contemplating the majesty of the stars, even when it is cold and even when the meteor shower you came for is underwhelming. If, like me, you are on a slow path toward having your life become a quirky novel about suburban ennui, a logical next step in that process would be to make a habit of lying quietly on a bench in a dark field and contemplating the heavens.

7. The average digital camera, even one that has a bulb setting that lets you take long exposures, is pretty much inadequate for photographing meteors that only appear once or twice a minute. You tend to get pictures like this:

PICT0015

8. There are some cool pictures you can take on a clear, moonless night with the aforementioned camera, provided you brought a tripod:

Sedgwick Middle School
Sedgwick Middle School

Suburban Nocturne
Wardwell Street, West Hartford

9. It’s probably not a good idea to blog about your meteor-watching adventure as soon as you are done with it, because by the time you are finished blogging, it’s almost 5:00 a.m. and you may as well just clean up the kitchen and start making breakfast.

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2 Responses to “Stargazing”

  1. Alice said

    Love the Wardwell St. photo. And look up “vane” and “vain.”

  2. Likewise on both comments by Alice.

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