2009-11-17 06:13:18.000 – Stacey Kawecki, Observer and Meteorologist
One of the side effects of constantly looking up at the clouds is a resulting curiosity about what lies beyond the weather. That vast, expansive, final frontier: space. The intrigue of space and the cosmos was ingrained into me as a young child. My father would sit me, my brother and sister down in front of the TV and put in a tape: The Cosmos, by Carl Sagan. Even back then, watching the stars, nebulae, and galaxies zoom across the television screen made me feel small and inconsequential (but only on a universal scale). There were nights when he would take out his reflecting telescope and try to show us Saturn’s rings. For all I know, this introduction to space may have been the beginning to my own personal interest in the sky.
Well, this morning that excitement about the night sky was renewed. The Leonid Meteor Shower peaked this morning, between 0330 and 0530 EST. The stars from Mount Washington on a crisp, cool, clear night glitter like diamonds spread across black velvet. Knowing this, I couldn’t imagine a better viewing spot for the Leonids than my very own backyard (or tower). For the first time in a long while, the summit was clear for an astronomical event. Alarms buzzed at 0330 EST and by 0405 EST we were on the tower, faces tilted up expectantly.
Our early rise was greatly rewarded! I have intentionally witnessed the Leonids two times before today, and that totaled 10 sightings. Over the course of an hour, I saw close to 20 meteors! If you add in Mary Ellen’s, Mike’s, and Nicole’s sightings, it’s probably close to 35 or 40! It was like cosmic rain. After shivering on the windy tower, we gradually trickled back inside for some hot coffee. Waking up at 3:30 am has never been so rewarding.
Stacey Kawecki, Observer and Meteorologist