Tuesday, September 1, 2015
A Flash of Light in the Starry Night
It started with the Perseid Meteor Shower, the best night show of the year … August 5, 2015. My mom and I thought we’d give it a try, going out on our deck where there’s a fairly large dome of sky hampered only at the fringes by trees and our roof. All night, but peaking after midnight, meteors were supposed to be dashing in short sprints across the darkness above. I wasn’t expecting much; my last meteor shower had been a case of “no big deal”; but I hadn’t been sleeping well that week so figured I might as well give up some time lying in bed to watch for something. I wanted to see a meteor again; I’d be happy with just one. Ten-thirty was a little early for a quality showing, but it was the latest I was willing to give. My parents went out earlier and saw one each before returning inside; then I went out, watched, and waited.
Look to the northeast, I remembered. But don’t focus on any one spot. I was only hoping to see a tiny, evanescent streak of white light, sliding, then vanishing, for a split second in the spaces between the stars, the permanent residents of the night sky. Not much to it, unless there were dozens of them one right after the other. And then, about five minutes into my vigil, right before my eyes and fairly low and horizontal in the sky, streaked a brilliant light … longer and bigger and brighter than any meteor I’d known was even possible to see. It went so fast I have a hard time describing it, but the distinct head, like a burning lump of coal, had an orangeish white tail. Oddly, it seemed to linger in the sky, yet disappear too fast for me to quite grasp its appearance. It stayed visible just a few split-seconds longer than your typical pin-like meteor. (I didn’t know that meteors had color, but I later learned they all do; the color depends on its chemical composition. It’s somewhat rare for one to be near enough for us to distinguish its hue. Mine was most likely made of sodium.)
It gave me chills. Thank you, Lord! That was amazing! I prayed. This was addicting … I would stay out just a bit longer and hope to see one more. Even a little runt would be satisfactory. I ended up going inside before I saw another one (my neck was starting to hurt), but I couldn’t wait to tell my mom and dad what I’d seen. Later, between one-thirty and two in the morning, my mom saw eleven meteors, but none were as big as mine. I felt so blessed!
That meteor shower started both my mom and me, but especially my mom, on a quest to learn more about the night sky that had always interested us but that we’d never fully acquainted ourselves with. We’re not scientific people, so our main fascination right now are the constellations. My mom knows more than I do, but I can pick out fifteen: Cygnus, Lyra, Sagitta, Delphinus, Aquila, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, the Little Dipper (including Polaris, the important North Star), the Big Dipper, Hercules, Corona, Scorpio, Sagittarius, and Orion (interestingly, Orion, usually thought of as a winter constellation, is actually visible in the east before dawn, right now at the end of August). I hope to add to that number.
When I look up at the stars in the sky, I feel the most profound peace. Those stars have been in virtually the same formations since God created them. All men have gazed upon them, even made up images and stories to accompany them. Yet they are far beyond our corrupting, sin-stained hands. God is the only one who can ever touch them. Just like, with His love surrounding me, He is the only one who can ever touch me. And His touch is love and joy and peace and all good things.
Do you like looking at the night sky? Do you know any constellations?