Monday, August 11, 2008

Early Perseids in Armadillo Central

There's a herd of cattle watching me, about fifty feet away, as far as I can tell from their eyeshine in the beam of a red flashlight. Big pairs of red dots pointed this way. Small flies keep landing on the iPhone keyboard and getting themsleves smeared around before flying off indignantly, but, regrettably, not permanently. Screech owls and a coyote are proclaiming their territorial rights as dawn draws near, to make such issues moot for another day. My camera clicks off one more frame every 30 seconds. An old windmill groans in the wind.

I sit in this pasture deep in the heart of Texas this night counting meteors and crossing my fingers that a few of these early Perseids really did pass through my camera's too limited field of view before winking out of existence.

That, and cursing the weather. When I arrived out here shortly after moonset, the sky was covered with a film of clouds. First magnitude stars didn't so much shine as ooze their light through. They seemed more like acne on the face of the clouds than the local jewels of our cosmos.

But one or two Perseids managed to make themselves seen, even through that. And then, at the cost of the night vision in one eye, and mostly because it seemed so wonderfully improbable to be doing so, I sent an email from this cow pasture, many miles from anywhere, to an old friend in the UK. And before my night vision could return, my phone vibrated and connected me to someone I used to talk to everyday, but now haven't seen in years, more or less. That this was all possible still leaves me a little amazed.

And as we spoke, filling some of the gap of years, I looked up to find that the sky was almost clear and Perseids were falling. Some came head on and looked like flash bulbs going off deep in the sky. Most came as bright streaks; some of them large enough to leave behind glowing tails. Others seemed too small to be seen alone, and therefore chose to arrive in clouds of their own kind. A patch of sky would momentarily, and ever so slightly, brighten as they all burned together.

I counted about 30 Perseids in all, before the clouds returned and sealed away the night sky for good.

Tomorrow is the peak of the shower (starting around 1:45 AM, when the moon sets), but the weather forecast promises much worse conditions for the occasion, so I took what I could get this night, and, of course, I curse the weather.

Dawn is nearly here. A bat just flew by, making sure it goes to bed with a full belly. The cattle are coming. I should be going.

It is amazing to be able to post from here.

1 comment:

  1. So of course I want to know who it was you talked to across the world! If I haven't told you before, besides being a great photographer, I really enjoy the way you write. Your friend...