The Sky is Falling!

[I am groaning under the burden of a vastly increased workload — for my sins, I am even having to work all Saturday and Sunday. This week, I will thus hand you over to our American ambassador, for something perhaps a little more educational than our usual editorials…]

“Specialists recommend that just in case, if citizens do not have any special tasks at hand, they should stay indoors,” Georgia’s national radio said. “Foreign astronomers advise that people with circulatory conditions can suffer ill-effects. Those who are lovers of alcoholic drinks should be especially careful, because during times of world cataclysms people tend to become drunk more easily,” it continued without elaboration.

It was 3:00am – I set the alarm to go off and decided to stay in bed for just FIVE MORE MINUTES.. after all, this wasn’t something I HAD to do, just something I wanted to do. I sat in the darkness of my room, under the warmth of my covers debating with myself whether or not to get up and go outside. Arguing that this only happens once a year and this year it was supposed to be spectacular.

My decision was made for me when my bedroom lit up like a Christmas tree. I tilted my head back to peek through the blinds and squinted because I didn’t know exactly what I was looking at. I made out the sky and the stars, clear as a bell. It was a clear night. Then I saw it again, several streaks crossing the stars then seemingly *exploding* and streaking off again. That did it. Hopped out of bed, put on a jacket against the evening desert chill (yes, I live in a desert and it DOES get cold contrary to the belief of your fine editor), and ran out back with binoculars in hand. ‘Course I didn’t really need them, the sky was like a veritable light show. The atmosphere was clean and clear, no twinkling and that made for excellent viewing. Yes, folks, in addition to all her writing talents designed to entertain you, your American Ambassador is also an Amateur Astronomer. I had to see this, I had to document it.

I bore witness to the Leonids Meteor Shower which graces our system every year about this time. This year, however, we passed through a denser area of the Comet tail and were destined to see a lot more meteors than the norm. Last time the Leonids were this dense was in 1966. Reports of up to 1500 meteors per hour were reported. The original comet that made up this tail passed our system in 868AD and left its first trail in 902AD. Every year, we pass through this comet’s tail and see meteors or *Shooting stars* as many people like to call them.

The most dense shower in the history of this storm was in 1833 when it appeared over the Northeastern United States and it seemed as though it were raining meteors. The sky was illuminated with majestic fireballs all evening. It was estimated that over 240,000 meteors fell that evening and that is only a rough estimate since they didn’t start counting till it began waning!

Your American Ambassador was in awe this morning. I realize that we are a much smaller part of something huge in this universe. I felt amazed watching multiple streaks exploding in the pre-dawn sky. Makes you wonder what would happen if any of those rocks would hit something. Good thing we have an atmosphere that burns up most of the debris before it hits the ground, otherwise we’d all be wearing combat hats every few weeks when we pass through comet tails, although some renegade pieces manage to sneak through our planetary defenses and bash in the hood of a car or the side of a building. Nothing to speak of, and certainly not *Armageddon*.

Jim tells me I am outwardly passionate about everything. And why not? Stand outside this morning watching this and realize how cool it is to be here, alive and able to see this, able to enjoy life and all its pleasures with gusto. Besides, what is the alternative?

Chris Fata
Scottsdale Arizona
18 November 1998