My husband is a night owl. Ironic, since I’m the one with the astronomy bug, but can’t seem to keep my eyes open after nine o’clock. Saturday evening, Terry went over to a friend’s house to watch the latest UFC pay-per-view fight. I looked forward to an evening of quiet, watching a movie, reading a book and making sure Apollo got extra dog treats. Before Terry left, though, I asked him to wake me up after midnight, preferably between two and four in the morning, so I could take advantage of the dark of the moon and a meteor shower. He remembered and got me out of bed at 3:30 a.m.
I shook myself awake and staggered outside in my flip-flops. I drug the folding chair to a better location on the patio, and leaned back, stretching out my legs in front of me so my head rested comfortably on the chair back, allowing me to see nearly all the sky overhead. My eyes immediately spotted Vega, the brights star in the constellation Lyra. As I mentioned in Friday’s blog post Meteors After Midnight, this weekend’s meteor shower appears to originate from the constellation Lyra, hence the name “Lyrid Meteor Shower.”
Within ten minutes, I spotted a meteor. I decided I needed a sweater or a blanket, so I went back inside to find something to keep my upper body warm and protected from the wind. I settled back into the chair and gazed around the night sky, trying to connect the dots and recognize and memorize some constellations. I easily spotted Scorpius (aka Scorpio) almost due south of me. I could not see my own birth month constellation, Libra, directly west (right) of Scorpio because the stars that form the scales are too faint to be seen from my backyard. Another interesting bit of trivia about my husband: He’s a Scorpio, whom Libras are never supposed to marry. According to Chinese astrology, Terry and I went supposed to marry either. In eight days, we celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary. Go figure. But back to Scorpius. The bright star, Antares, flashed red or green, probably due to the atmosphere and it’s proximity to the southern horizon.
At four o’clock, I went back inside to steep a mug of tea. I boiled some water in the microwave and selected Irish Blend loose leaf tea (my favorite). Another five minutes later, I had a piping hot perfect blend of tea and sugar to take outside with me. While I waited for my tea to steep, I tried to memorize the constellations displayed on the ‘Guide to the Stars’ wheel I purchased recently for Terry. I set it to the appropriate time of night and month/day so I could identify the stars and constellations I saw above the roof of my house. No matter how hard I tried, though, I could not find the constellations Ophiuchus or Hercules, which should have been easily spotted between Lyra and Scorpius. I guess I just couldn’t see enough of the stars to connect the dots and learn those two new constellations.
At one point, a large bird flew directly overhead, barely skimming over the roof of my house. Once the bird cleared my roof and flew over the court, the lights from the houses ringing our cul-de-sac lit the undersides of its wings. I think it might have been an owl, but I can’t be entirely sure. My eyes were focused farther away, watching for falling meteors, than a few feet above my head.
I saw two more meteors before I decided to call it quits and go back to bed. I gave up at 4:30 a.m. I had hoped for a few more than just three total for the night. The ‘forecast’ for the meteor shower claimed upwards of twenty per hour, but I saw only a sprinkling. Adding the ones I saw last night to the two I saw Friday night at the star party, I observed a total of five meteors this weekend. Clouds have moved in from the north today (Sunday), so I doubt I’ll get a chance to try again tonight. Besides, it’s a work night which means I need to be asleep by nine o’clock.