2007.10.07 Catch a falling star

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I saw a meteor a couple of weeks ago. That seems newsworthy as a headline. It was a spectacular one.

My wife and I were walking at the school track when it flashed across a large portion of the north sky. Very bright, very beautiful, and for me, very rare.

I read that on any given night a person can head outdoors and see a meteor. They’re that common. Maybe so, but I don’t have that many nights to lie around looking at the sky for hours. I leave that to the shepherds.

I’ve tallied dozens of shooting stars in my life and I can even remember some highlights.

When I was about eight years old, I remember lying on the deck of a sailboat at Devils Lake. I might have been on the heavy old Lightning that we owned with the Brashers, or I might have been at the lake with the Bryners.

There was a nice meteor spotted that night and it might have been my first. Maybe that’s why it’s still in my head after all these years.

I remember driving out to a dark area in someone’s big boat of a convertible in college for the Perseid shower. It was a pretty good year, although there were a lot of questionable reports where only one person made the sighting and everyone else was left doubting.

There was a night on a Mackinac Island beach when a good Perseid shower came to a close as a bright full moon arose in the east.

There were many nights on Fay Highway with my kids, lying on the hood of the car and looking for what Ben called “meat-eaters.”

That recent show at the track was also notable. There was no scheduled meteor shower. We weren’t out looking. It just suddenly appeared for a brief treat.

When we started walking at the track a few years ago, we quickly noticed the busyness of the night sky. Airplanes are nearly non-stop, mostly heading to Detroit. If you stop and look around, you might see five or six at one time.

And then Sept. 11, 2001, arrived and all continental flights were cancelled. It brought an amazing change to the night sky. It was quieter and the sky was empty except for the stars and planets, plus an occasional satellite far above.

I’ve been thinking about the night sky lately with all the attention placed this week on the 50th anniversary of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite put into orbit.

My family went out at night to spot it moving across the sky. A weekly schedule was published in the Toledo Blade so you would know when and where to look.

It was just last week that I read the crushing news that I wasn’t really looking at Sputnik.

Sputnik was about the size of a basketball. It couldn’t be seen from Earth. It was the second stage booster rocket trailing behind that we were actually watching. I’m glad we didn’t know that then. Slapping mosquitoes on those summer evenings in 1958 wouldn’t have been the same.

The Sputnik achievement was impressive, but it was also very worrisome. The U.S. feared Soviet supremacy and before long we were heading for the elementary school hallways to practice atomic bomb drills.

Yes, boys and girls, kneeling in the hallway with your head bent down to your knees with your hands over your head will protect you from an atomic bomb. Not a direct hit, of course, but from the flash of the bomb and I guess from the radioactive fallout. Crazy times.

We walked the track last night—only a lazy mile and a quarter—and, as always, I marveled at the night sky. When you look at a map of the Earth at night and see the areas of city lights, you see that this area isn’t considered among the darkest.

Toledo and the development to the west intrude on our sky. You can see the glow of Adrian to the northeast and Wauseon to the south. What we call dark isn’t really dark. The stars we see aren’t nearly the number of stars visable if you head north to less populated areas.

But I am very thankful for what we have. The stars visible at the track are certainly in the category of “countless.” I’ve watched meteor showers in my back yard. On a clear night, I can walk out onto my sidewalk right in town and follow the Milky Way across the sky. When I can see all of that, I know I’m in a good place.

 

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
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    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
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    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
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  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
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    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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