Saturday, October 30, 2010

Running Thru the Tail of Halley’s Comet

Last Friday (21 Oct) I was up at 0-dark-thirty for a run so as to be back prior to assuming Mister Tristan duties (the human being, not the blog).

My destination for this 5-mile counter-clockwise loop from my house was Harshman Road, where I planned to run south from Marion. Harshman Road is about 2 miles long, and I was running SE, almost directly towards Orion, fairly high in the night sky.

Why run there, and then? Well, I love me some meteors. And since the Perseids back in August were a local bust due to cloud cover, I fell back on the Orionids as being the next one in time. Via Meteor Showers Online we learn:

The Orionid meteor shower is the second of two showers that occur each year as a result of Earth passing through dust released by Halley's Comet, with the first being the Eta Aquarids. The point from where the Orionid meteors appear to radiate is located within the constellation Orion.

The Orionids generally begin on October 15 and end on October 29, with maximum generally occurring during the morning hours of October 20-22. The Orionids are barely detectable on the beginning and ending dates, but observers in the Northern Hemisphere will see around 20 meteors per hour at maximum.

Well, my meteor count was 2. Or well, maybe 3 (this over about 20 minutes), it was hard to tell. My neck was getting a crick in it from looking up at such an angle.  In all cases it was the briefest flash, not even a streak. One blink and you miss it. Perhaps the bright moon had something to do with it, although it was low in the west and 90 degrees to my right shoulder as I ran south.

While the meteors did not live up to expectations, the run had other benefits. As I said, Orion was high in the southern sky, with its major stars Sirius and Betelgeuse bright and prominent. The "W" shape of Cassiopeia was brilliant in the NW sky. The warm, humid air was quite still, and a light ground fog lent an eerie appearance to the landscape.

After the end of the meteor quest at the southern end of Harshman Road, before returning home I ran thru the old Brown's Mill cemetery. It wasn't spooky, just more of a feeling of kinship with those who had gone before.

And so I quietly slipped back into the house, satisfied. 

Oh, and Halley's Comet--the real appearance--was here and I saw it in 1986, but won't be back until 2061, long after I'll have begun taking a long dirt nap.  So I'll have to content myself with running thru its tail every year, as long as I am able.


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