Seeking Stardust - The 2012 Geminids Meteor Shower

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (12/15/12)—Bending to the whims of an agile breeze, they stand like stoic observers, taking in hundreds or even thousands of years worth of ceaseless change. From weathering the ravages of natural catastrophes and the ever-long cycle of life, to experiencing the sunny splendor of a season’s rebirth and the singular peace of a clear, starry night, most trees outlive a single man five times over. To simply imagine what they have seen and what they could say to us if granted a human voice is, at the same time, both jarring and beautiful.

And it was this immense concept that myself, writer Jessica Dockrey, and photographer Jeff Harp pondered this past week while gazing into a late night and early morning sky animated by the streaking lights of this year’s Geminids meteor shower.

On the rural fringe of Hopkins County, the smell of burning cedar lingered in the wind and the soft glow of fire danced upon the branches of the surrounding forest. It was here that we watched, in what often turned to silence, as grain-sized debris from a centuries-old asteroid—3200 Phaethon—blasted into our atmosphere, leaving behind a myriad of vivid, ephemeral trails.

While we counted ourselves lucky to have observed the annual interstellar event, which produced upwards of 75-100 meteors per hour, we imagined how many astronomical displays our rural, bark-bearing hosts had witnessed from their sapling years to the days of knotty growths and splitting seams. Obviously, it’s an impossibility to know, but the thought of their powerfully quiet existence and the years they have spent simply traversing the gauntlet of time is, in a word, astounding.

At the conclusion, what we enjoyed that evening, and into the dawn, alongside the trees, was not only an epic display of “falling stars,” but also a feeling of significance.

We are but flecks in the majesty of our ever-expanding universe—a feeling that can be magnified by star-gazing—yet we feel, we remember, and we observe. More importantly, we create our reality and define our existence by moments of enchantment and wonder—moments like a meteor shower.

A previous article about the Geminids meteor shower, which includes tips for successful meteor watching, can be found here.

A list of upcoming 2013 meteor showers is as follows (NOTE: Peaks usually occur during the pre-dawn hours on the date noted):

  •          QUADRANTIDS: January 1st – January 4th (Peak on January 3rd)
  •          LYRIDS: April 20th – April 23rd (Peak on April 21st)
  •          ETA AQUARIDS: May 2nd – May 6th (Peak on May 4th)
  •          DELTA AQUARIDS: July 14th – August 19th (Peak on July 28th)
  •          PERSEIDS: July 29th – August 17th (Peak on August 12th)
  •          ORIONIDS: October 18th – October 26th (Peak on October 22nd)
  •          LEONIDS: November 14th – November 20th (Peak on November 17th)
  •          GEMINIDS: December 7th – December 15th (Peak on December 14th)
  •          URSIDS: December 17th – December 24th (Peak on December 22nd)

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos by Jeff Harp

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