Wish on a Shooting Star

English: A fireball Geminids falling earthward...

English: A fireball Geminids falling earthwards. The Draconid meteor shower is expected on October 8, 2011, and may feature up to 1000 meteors falling her hour, according to some astronomers. Almost all meteors burn up and disintegrate long before reaching the surface of the Earth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re having a rainy afternoon. Since it’s been dry and unseasonably warm, I really can’t complain, except that the timing could have been better.  After two weeks of clear skies, the night the Draconid meteor shower peaks (during a thin crescent moon, even) will be cloudy.

The Draconids, so named because they fly past the head of the constellation Draco, are viewing-friendly because they show up shortly after sunset. Many of the showers make us stay up past midnight if we want a glimpse. Most years there will be just a few streaks, but the Draconids have been known to occasionally put on a show, with stars shooting across the heavens several thousand times per hour.

Alas, I’ll have to find out second hand what sort of year it was.

Meteors, or shooting stars, seem magickal, even though we now know what they are. It’s no wonder that ancient people either feared or worshiped the stars which appeared to shoot across the sky. Many Greek and Roman temples had shines to rocks which had fallen from the sky, including Apollo’s temple at Delphi. In North American, meteors have been found at Indian grave sites.

Making a wish on a shooting star is just one of many meteor-related practices. In Swabia (southern Germany), seeing a meteor meant a year of good fortune, but seeing three in one night meant the viewer was doomed to die. In the Philippines, one had to tie a knot in a handkerchief before the light was extinguished in order to hold onto the good luck. In 1492, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian assembled his council to figure out the meaning of the Ensisheim stony meteorite, which had fallen in Alsace (now part of France). The council, perhaps making their own good luck, decided that it as a good omen for Maxmillian’s wars with France and the Turks.

If you catch a glimpse of the Draconids tonight, make a wish for me.

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2 thoughts on “Wish on a Shooting Star

  1. hope the clouds clear up for you! I’m in Chicago and going to drive out a ways to set up and try to get some pictures. I’ll share them with you if I get any good ones 🙂 great blog by the way

  2. Pingback: Hunter’s Moon and Meteors | Adirondack Earth Lore

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