Monday, August 13, 2012

Meteor Shower

With NASA and meteorologists worldwide promising celestial fireworks this evening, I grabbed a folding chair and parked myself in front of my building to take in all the glory of the annual Perseid meteor shower.  As it turns out, I ended up disappointed.  With the forecast for up to 100 meteors an hour, I sat out for an hour and 15 minutes, from 11:30 to 12:45, and saw a grand total of 5 meteors.  All of them relatively unimpressive - no bright ones streaking across the night sky.  The ones I witnessed briefly appeared and quickly faded away.  I also witnessed three constellations which I was able to identify - Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and Cassiopeia - one satellite, two noisy and annoying teenage girls, one fat chick, one old bald guy, three raccoons, and a bird that I was unable to identify in the dark. In all fairness, I was not in an optimal viewing location though.  I had some trees obstructing my view, and was close to artificial lights.  Ideally I would have liked to have viewed them from my vacation home in the wilderness, out away from the city lights, but sadly I don't own a vacation home.  I guess I'll have to wait for the Leonid meteor showers in November.

My camera phone takes pretty lousy pictures in the dark, but if you look closely, you can make out some raccoon eyes peeking out from behind the tree. 

It wasn't all bad though.  For starters, I got to spend some quality time in the cool night air after a hot day.  And from time to time, it's very pleasant to  just sit and enjoy the peace and relative quiet of the evening.  It affords the opportunity to relax and think.  And as I gazed up at the stars and pondered the vastness of the universe, I found it odd that some people like Carl Sagan can look up at the sky and conclude that we are insignificant when you consider that we are on a medium sized planet, orbiting a smaller star, inside an average galaxy.  I, on the other hand, marvel at the fact that tucked away in our little corner of this massive universe is the only known life.  Certainly extraterrestrial life may exist, however it's also quite possible that we are alone in this universe and completely unique.  That makes me feel special, and makes me feel that life is precious.  And if life does exist on other planets, the odds that aliens are bipedal, with two arms, two eyes, generally just similar in size and appearance to humans is extremely unlikely, despite what those who claim to have been abducted would have you believe.  And if you believe in evolution, the odds that intelligent life would evolve into similar species on different planets is extremely unlikely.  It's more reasonable to think that purported alien sightings are time travelers from the future returning to our time.  And this is precisely the point where I decided that I'm done pontificating for the evening and it's time to get some sleep.
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