Monday, 10 December 2012

The Geminid Meteor Shower

So Patrick Moore has died.

He visited my school once, back when I was a 'trying to be nonchalant and cool' teenager.  I spared him a glance out of the common room window but did not make any more effort than that to see him. I wish I had. A legend of a man.

The reason for the visit was that my school was named after the astronomer William Herschel whose claim to fame (apart from living in Slough where I grew up) was that he discovered Uranus. This discovery, of course, generated much mirth amongst the sniggering pupils. If I remember correctly, a camera crew came too to capture some footage for a Sky at Night documentary about the William Herschel telescope. I don't remember ever watching the programme when it was broadcast or if indeed any of the footage was used in it.

I have always loved looking up at the stars and imagined that I would find it fascinating with the aid of a telescope. I was delighted when my first husband gave me a telescope one Christmas. I thought it was a thing of great beauty. Now I don't know if it wasn't set up right or if I was just completely incompetent but I could never manage to focus on anything in particular. Apart from the moon. There was a special lens for viewing the moon and it was amazing. But there are only so many times you can look at the moon and standing outside with a bulky piece of equipment that needed to be moved about and stored safely lost its appeal quickly. My star gazing reverted to being with the naked eye and my telescope was packed away and left to gather dust.

I still have the telescope and maybe one day I will find the enthusiasm to unpack it. If I wasn't so busy with Christmas related things, that day could well be now as an astronomical event is about to happen. That event is the annual Geminid Meteor Shower.

The Geminids should be at their peak on the evening of 13th December and coinciding with new moon to give a dark sky, it could be a spectacular show (providing there is no cloud cover of course!).

Weather permitting, I will definitely be outside wrapped up warm in winter clothes and a duvet, either on a reclining garden chair or a well insulted ground cover on the lawn. For a festive touch I am planning on supplies of warm mince pies and mulled wine. I might even let my mind wander to thoughts of that first Christmas and the star  that appeared over Bethlehem to guide the wise men.

Fingers crossed for a clear night!

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