I woke up at almost 2:00 pm today and I have a good excuse for that. Leonids meteors.
From 2:00 to 4:00 am, hubby and I were lying down on borrowed carton and rubber mats (thanks to students and fellow astronomy fans out there), at the viewdeck of the PAGASA Observatory in UP Diliman Campus. It became quite cold at around 3:00 am and that’s when we realized how stupid we were not to bring anything like mats and blankets! (Next time, we know better!)
Anyway, the long wait was definitely worth it. We started seeing meteors every 15 or 30 minutes or so. If my count is right, I have seen about 11 of them. Not bad for a 2-hour stay. The girl beside me who started their watch at about 9:00 pm said she was already on her 25th meteor by the time we were leaving. So using simple calculation, she have seen an average of 3 to 4 hours meteor an hour. Not bad too! (I must also thank her and her other friends who kindly shared their mats with me and hubby – who are total strangers in the dark!)
My favorite meteor happened sometime around 3:30 am – it left a bluish streak of light and the ‘train’ it created was thicker than the others I have seen this morning. It appeared below the Orion star constellation (at least from my vantage point of view). I shouted and clapped my hands along with the others who would also normally applause and cheer everytime a meteor arrives. Wow, if we had seen only one meteor that night, then it would already be worth the long and chilly wait.
The other meteors were equally magical, leaving reddish, yellowish and mostly whitish glow along the dark skies. One even had an almost greenish tinge! According to the NASA website, “The color of many Leonids is caused by light emitted from metal atoms from the meteoroid (blue, green, and yellow) and light emitted by atoms and molecules of the air (red). The metal atoms emit light much like in our sodium discharge lamps: sodium (Na) atoms give an orange-yellow light, iron (Fe) atoms a yellow light, magnesium (Mg) a blue green light, ionized Calcium (Ca+) atoms may add a violet hue, while molecules of atmospheric nitrogen (N2) and oxygen atoms (o) give a red light. The meteor color depends on whether the metal atom emissions or the air plasma emissions dominate.”
The news articles about the meteors showers predicted that there would be about 100 meteors appearing every hour but unfortunately, I think the visible ones numbered about five per hour only. I guess one reason is that the others were not visible to the naked eye anymore because of the clouds and yes, the level of pollution in Manila. I always think that ‘stars shine more brightly’ in the provinces because the air there is cleaner and therefore the skies are clearer. It makes sense because according to scientists, those ‘hazy’ skies are mostly caused by air pollution. One probable factor why we also didn’t see more meteors was the cumulative effect of city lights – I am very sure that we’d see more of the meteors had we been watching from, say, a secluded beach resort or a mountaintop. I hope we city dwellers will do something more concrete to combat air pollution, or we are doomed to a future with no more nights of stargazing and meteors-watching.
It was my first time to do stargazing again after a long while. This time, I have a husband beside me (who must have been thinking how the hell he ended up with a wife who would drag him into the dead of the night just so they can watch falling stars…hehehe). [Yes, hubby, expect more of nights and morning like that!]
I posted this in my Facebook today, “Looking at the expanse of the night skies with stars scattered all over like burning jewels, it made me think again about how mysterious, beautiful, perfect and energizing the universe is. Everything is just so perfect, the planets don’t colide, the earth just circles the sun in harmony with all the other planets, and we live, we breathe, we laugh…Ahhh, this is so full of mystery, so full of magic…”
God must really really love us all very much.
For more details about Leonid meteors and other astronomical facts, you may visithttp://leonid.arc.nasa.gov/meteor.html
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