Falling stars

I’ve just come in from watching the Leonid meteor shower with my children. The peak was predicted for 4:00 to 6:00 a.m., so I set my alarm for 5:00 and we spread a blanket on the front lawn and lay down to watch the show. The weather was perfectly clear, which helped to make up for skyglow we get from Raleigh and Cary. I knew that these were less-than-ideal viewing conditions, but hoped that the meteors were sufficiently bright that we’d be able to see them anyway.
We weren’t disappointed. They were bright, and we saw several per minute the whole time we were out there. It was chilly, but not terribly cold, and eerily quiet even for Holly Springs; normally, we have the sound of vehicles passing on Highway 55 as background noise even when nothing else is audible, but at 5:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, traffic was virtually nonexistent. The only sounds were the growling of my stomach (which was obviously ready for breakfast), the three of us breathing, and occasional exclamations when an especially spectacular meteorite zipped through our field of vision. Most of those exclamations came from us, but we could occasional ones from neighbors who were watching the show too. It was that quiet.
According to the CNN article that tipped me off about this event, the last time the Leonids put on a show like this was in 1966. I may have seen that shower. I can’t be sure of the exact date, but I distinctly remember lying on a blanket watching meteors with my father on the lawn of our house on Lionel Street in Monroe, Louisiana. We lived in that house from (I think) 1965 to 1970, so that’s the right location for a 1966 memory. I’ll have to ask my Dad if he can confirm this when I see him at Thanksgiving.
I did notice a couple of differences from the 1966 experience. My vision was a lot better back then; I didn’t even need glasses yet, let alone bifocals. And I don’t recall my joints complaining about lying on the ground. Even my Dad was younger back then (by about five years) than I am now.

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