Friday, December 21, 2012

Gazing at the Geminids

December 13th, 2012

This evening seemed like a normal one with the usual battle of chess over dinner at a restaurant with my good neighbour Martin.  However this evening while walking back towards our rooms around the cliff side, we couldn't actually walk along the beach as the tide was extremely high.  We scrambled through the maze of tables and chairs in one of the beach shack restaurants whose small dyke of a few sandbags were just holding up.  Once we made it to the cliff side path which is a couple of meters above the beach, we stopped to observe the high water and it was interesting that there weren't any waves, just a general swelling of the sea.

Then “Whoa!!!  Nice shooting star!”...which was followed by another and another.  As we rounded the rocky point we met up with a Lithuanian woman who told us it was the Geminid meteor  Martin and I hatched a plan to gather some supplies (read: beer and Pringles), warm clothes and a couple of yoga mats to lie on and climb up the hill behind our guesthouse to view this stellar event.

We often have 2-3 beach dogs hanging out at our place but this evening only our favourite, Smiley, was with us.  Smiley is one of the few dogs who has a fairly consistent name with tourists for a good reason.  When he first meets you he’ll come striding up slowly while pulling his lips back and showing his teeth.  He’s not being aggressive...just smiling!  Last year Martin and I were walking with Smiley up on the hill one afternoon and an older French woman came around the corner exclaiming “Oh Smileee!”  Supposedly Smiley was the pet of an Indian family until one full moon night he was howling outside their front door which is considered a bad omen so the family kicked him out...poor dude but now he’s one of the coolest cats (well dog) on the beach.

This sunset pic has nothing to do with this's just a nice view from our balcony!

So with our supplies, the three of us headed up the hill for some meteor shower watching.  We didn’t know until the next day that the Geminids are shooting stars not caused by the Earth passing through the old trail of a comet but through a trail of an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon.  The debris in the trail move around 35 kilometres per second through the atmosphere resulting in shooting stars.

Night over Arambol from up on the hill:

After watching for a while Martin clued in that the shooting stars were radiating out of one area of the sky directly above us and above my favourite constellation Orion.  Again, we didn’t clue in until the next day that it was the Gemini constellation that they seem to originate from (hence they’re called the Geminids)...but it was cool to clue in that we were in fact looking out of the “windshield” of the Earth as this had to be the direction in which the Earth is traveling through space in its orbit around the sun.

The Geminids:

After a while poor Smiley started getting a bit chilled so I wrapped him up in sarong and later added a toque on his head as he cuddled in between Martin and me.  Good Smiley.

Chillin' with chilly Smiley:

Keep warm Buddy!

We stayed up until after 4am enjoying many streaks across the sky until we also got a bit chilled.  What a super stellar evening...well worth the price of admission!