I got up about 4 a.m. on a clear black night for the Perseid meteor shower. By the coals of a small campfire I waited. Each year in August, nature’s fireworks celebrate my birthday. In the distant past, a comet traveled through Earth’s August orbit around the sun. Remaining debris in space left by the comet annually drifts into Earth’s orbital path. As the Earth moves through the area, it collides with debris that gets caught in its gravitational pull. Debris falls toward Earth generating heat and light. Most particles are the size of sand grains that heat and light up brightly in a form we call shooting stars.
Two brilliantly bright shooting stars and more normal flashes streaked the sky on my watch. Most traveled from north to south emanating from the Cassiopeia constellation region. Light from each lasted less than a second.
Satellites scurried across the sky shining brighter and dimmer behind invisible moisture. No clouds were present but varying light reflected from the satellites indicated moisture was present to filter light.
I enjoyed the brilliance of constellations and am thankful a dark sky prevails at Ody Brook Sanctuary. Looking southward lights at 14 Mile and Northland Drive obscure good night sky viewing and the same holds true for 17 Mile and US 131. Lights constructed to shine down instead of up light more efficiently, use less energy, and intrude less on night’s beauty. To the south of Ody Brook a house was remolded with mercury vapor light added to come on at dark and go off at daylight. During the winter months it interferes with night sky viewing but in summer tree leaves block its light. New neighbors bought the home last year and I have spoken with them about putting the light on a motion sensor so it is off when not needed. That would save energy and protect night nature niches.
The night sky provides connections with distant places beyond comprehension. I looked at the Andromeda galaxy. It is the closest galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy and is the only one visible without telescopes. Like our galaxy, it spans a great area and is shaped somewhat like a Frisbee or dinner plate. View yourself on Earth in our solar system in a plate-like galaxy of stars. The sun would be located about 2/3 of the way from the center of the plate. Looking across the length of the plate would be the greatest concentration of stars but most are so distant they appear only as the white glow we know as the “Milky Way.”
Looking upward through the thin depth of the plate we see closer stars as brilliant pinpoints of light. Beyond those are distance stars but not in the abundance seen as we look across the flattened saucer of the Milky Way.
On the 13th I began my birthday celebration watching the Perseid Meteor fireworks, constellations, and a distance home in Andromeda Galaxy. In the 1970’s when I was director of the Environmental Education School at Bryce Canyon National Park, the teachers had a world map and asked children to place pins in locations of their home cities. My friend Bob Raver and I claimed we traveled on a beam of light to take up residence on Earth from Andromeda. The teachers listed Andromeda on the map and we placed our pins there. A news reporter wrote an article about the environmental school and listed places from where people visited including Andromeda. We all know that if it is in the paper it must be true so Bob and I claim Andromeda as a valid previous home.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the firstname.lastname@example.org Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.