Sunday, August 13, 2017

Perseids @ Sea

Last night I had the exhilarating experience of viewing the peak of the Perseids meteor shower in the company of a dozen Shipmates (oddly, the majority of them seemed to be engineers) from the signal bridge, perched high on the Tanker's upper works.  The view was spectacular, with the Milky Way stretching horizon-to-horizon, the Summer Triangle ensnared in our ship's signal halyards, and golden Saturn gleaming in contrast to ruddy Antares in the south.

As might be imagined, I was in my element; explaining how meteor streams occur, are refreshed by their parent comets, and intersect with the orbit of our own Earth; pointing out constellations and asterisms; walking my companions through the "scales" of the night sky, starting with Saturn at mere interplanetary distances, moving out through light-years to Vega and Antares and distant Deneb--then taking that leap into intergalactic realms with the lovely naked-eye galaxy of Andromeda.

The evening's conversation ranged, you might say, far-afield, but every minute or so we were drawn back to the "shallow" sky by another bright meteor flashing overhead from east to west.  While not the best Perseid show I've ever experienced, the celestial fireworks were quite satisfactory to all present, and the shower was still going strong when the rising Moon began to brighten the skies.

As midnight came nigh I found myself alone on the signal bridge; a thin skein of cirrus had formed and conspired with Luna to end the evening's show.  As I gathered binoculars, star atlas and red flashlight my thoughts went back over the evening's adventures in time and space, aeons and megaparsecs.  Once again I'd had proven to me that exploring the heavens in the company of enthusiastic Shipmates is what I truly enjoy about being an astronomer;  whether on a sidewalk with "members of the public" or atop the towering superstructure of a mighty sea-going vessel with crew-mates, the true joy of observing the skies lies in the sharing.

But then, I already knew that.

No comments:

Post a Comment