Scintillate, scintillate, asteroid minific,
Fain would I fathom your nature specific.
Exaltedly set in ether capacious,
A reasonable facsimile of a gem carbonaceous.
Scintillate, scintillate, asteroid minific,
Fain would I fathom your nature specific.
(Tune: Twinkle, Twinkle..)

Sunday night I was rudely awakened by the sound of something killing a cat…or maybe it was a cat killing something. Whatever it was, it was loud, it was shrill, and it was right outside the front of the house. The last time I heard a sound like that, I found patches of fluffy fur on the front lawn the next day. I wandered out to the kitchen to see what time it was, since my heart was pounding and I wasn’t going to drop off to sleep in a hurry (plus “nature” was calling). It was 3 a.m.

After I took care of business, I parted the front curtains to look outside. The only thing visible was a great expanse of night sky. I miss the stars. Living in the city, the light pollution overpowers everything, except the flashing lights from passing airplanes. It’s depressing! But at my parents’ place, the night sky can be so clear that, not only can I pick out many constellations, I can see the milky way.

Sunday night I could see all that and shooting stars. It’s the peak time for the perseids meteor shower. They are a natural occurrence resulting from material falling off the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle. It takes the comet 133 years to orbit, and was last visible to the naked eye in 1992. Yes, I saw it too – in 1992!

Most of the shooting stars appeared as a flash of light with a tiny tail, all lasting less than a second. By the time it caught my eye, it was gone. But my patience paid off and I was fortunate enough to see some of the brightest ones; they left behind a long trail of vaporised gas that took a few seconds to fade away. In the words of Professor Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen’s University, Belfast “Every meteor is a speck of comet dust vaporising as it enters our atmosphere at 36 miles per second. What a glorious way to go”.

I didn’t sing Jiminy Cricket’s song, “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are; Anything your heart desires will come to you”. And I didn’t wish on any of the ones that I saw in the half hour I stood in the front window. I’ve wished upon stars in the past…I’m still not a princess living in a castle with Prince Charming, etc. etc. It also wasn’t the most practical hour for deep thinking…my greatest wish was quickly becoming several more hours of sleep, and maybe the opportunity to sleep in undisturbed (yeah, that didn’t happen!) I waited until I saw 13 falling stars…maybe 13 is a lucky number?