Monday, August 13, 2007

Star Gazing

One of the things Paul and I discovered about ourselves while dating, is that we both love topics concerning space. We are so nerdy, that as kids we wanted to be astronauts when we grew up. Upon finding out that little tidbit about each other, we knew we were destined to be husband and wife.

My birthday was last week. With it, marks a special celestial event: the annual Perseid meteor shower. Being the space geek that I am, I've known this since I was a teenager. Oh, the excitement of looking up at the night sky to see shooting stars! One big problem, I've always lived in a rather big city. Too much light pollution meant for less than optimal viewing. Heavy sigh.

In my adults years, I have been busy surviving college, jobs, and major life changes. Taking time away from precious sleep to star gaze was out of the question. This year, however, was different. This year I wanted to get my little family involved in one of my past hobbies.

Last night was the optimal time for viewing the meteor shower. I checked the weather on the internet, and discovered that our area was due for thunderstorms. Friday night was the least likely to have cloud cover, so we opted for that instead.

We loaded an excited Ian and Laurel, both donning their pajamas, into the van. Thanks to previous books we've read, Ian understood the concept of looking for shooting stars and eagerly talked about it days beforehand. Laurel, not too sure of all the preparations we were taking, but very aware of what stars are, was happy to get out of the house.

We drove beyond the city limits, into the desert, hoping to find just the right spot. The van rolling over hill after hill, put Laurel to sleep. It was late, I expected that. I hoped Ian would somehow elude sleep's powerful grip. I kept talking to him, trying to keep his brain active, and it worked. My little man was still awake when we finally parked along a dark dirt road.

Since I saw a tarantula crawling along the road not too far from where we parked, I opted to view from the safety of the van. We rolled down the windows, and I stuck my head out. Ian sat in my lap, and Paul bravely stood outside. Of course the poor man had no choice, his seat faced the wrong direction.

Upon looking towards the northeast sky, Paul and I were amazed at how many stars were visible. It had been too long since we viewed the night sky's beauty. We could even see the Milky Way! Quietly, we started looking for shooting stars. Ha, quietly - NOT! Ian was too excited and kept jabbering away about the stars. As well he should, this was quite a different adventure for all of us.

Paul was the first to see a meteor streak across the sky. He commented that it was faint, that perhaps we didn't drive far enough away from the city's lights. We kept staring into the Heavens, and finally I also viewed a shooting star. Ian kept yelling out, "I see a shooting star!" Whether or not he actually did, only he will know, but at least he had fun and he definitely saw more stars than he had in his entire life.

I think I got to see about four meteors, Paul a few more than that, Ian hopefully saw at least one, and Laurel had a good sleep in her carseat. Next time, we'll have to plan ahead and drive further away from the city's light pollution.

I can't wait for next year's event. Perhaps I don't have to. There's a possible meteor shower on September 1. There's also a lunar eclipse early in the morning on August 28.

Happy star gazing!


MaryP said...

Since when are astronauts geeky? Nonsense! They're the epitome of courage and adventure. Sheesh.

I meant to watch that meteor shower (peak time here, 2 a.m. this morning) when I heard about it on the radio yesterday afternoon. Darn! Totally forgot.


Anonymous said...

What a fun family outing! My brother wanted to be an astronaut as well, and he grew up to have a doctorate in aerospace engineering. I remember him and my dad getting up in the middle of the night to see Halley's comet. I, unfortunately, thought they were crazy and stayed in bed (I was a teenager with a bad attitude)!

I bet Ian thought his mom and dad were SOOOO fun last night. What a special treat!

Elizabeth said...

lunar eclipse - think that'll put me into labour?

Rachel said...

I live in a big city too and when we do have meteor showers, we can't see anything.

It's great that Ian got to experience that!

Mama's Moon said...

First of all, belated Happy Birthday! Hope it was fun!

Stargazing is one of the things I hope to do with the family now that we're not too close to any big city lights. Sounds like you guys created a good memory for yourselves and the kids. Whether Ian actually saw a shooting star isn't the point, though. He got to experience something that both of his parents love!

Damselfly said...

Happy belated birthday!

Thanks for that. I meant to look outside when Fly woke me up (as he does at least once every night), but I guess I was too tired .... You actually made a trip out of it!

Sherri said...

We had fun doing that last year. The kids were so excited!!! We saw, if I remember right, about 20 of them. It was so cool!!! I, too, love the night sky and anything to do with space! Last Christmas my husband bought me a telescope. I have enjoyed it so much!

Lady M said...

Fun! SwingDaddy and my dad both like looking at the stars. I would too, if I didn't get so darn cold.

Guinevere Meadow said...

I just LOVE watching the stars! We too live where it's hard to see much of anything. Awesome that you're exposing your kids to this stuff! :)