Fireball

Oh, yet another blog lapse — I seem to have these every year during the Dog Days of August. Sirius gets serious. You also have to consider that my posts are generated from the “Goodness Of My Heart”; i.e., the only compensation I receive is the pleasure I get from the comments. Of course I appreciate comments, particularly those from my friend and mentor Joan, (and of course those from my kin), but when I return from an excursion outside drenched in sweat all I want to do is immerse myself in challenging literature or music.

This week I spent a couple of days with my musical friends the McUmber-Houses, Dale and Sarah and their progeny. I play in an acoustic band with Dale and Sarah and we try to practice every week at the Java Jive coffee-house downtown.

Wednesday night I was standing outside Dale and Sarah’s house and observing the starry night sky — their place is far enough away from annoying city and town lights to offer quite an impressive celestial display. I was smoking a cigarette and attempting to identify constellations I once knew. Dale came out; he has a Dobsonian telescope and he’s familiar with the night sky. We were idly chatting about nebulae and such. I looked up and saw an amazing sight — a fireball streaming across the sky. Its diameter was about that of a pea held at arm’s length — that’s the distinction between an ordinary meteorite and a fireball; a meteorite or shooting star is a point source of light moving briefly across the night-time sky, while a fireball has an observable width and is much more dramatic. You can’t help but say “Wow!!” I’ve seen three of them so far during my brief tenure upon this planet.

I got back to Ava and Doug’s place last night. Doug was taking the trash out and we stood outside looking at the sky. I told him my fireball story and he had one to top it.

“We were out coon-huntin’ one night several years ago — the sky was clear; not a cloud to be seen. All of a sudden the sky just lit up from horizon to horizon. It didn’t seem like sheet lightning because there weren’t any clouds, and it was just so bright.”

I said “It might have been a really big meteor burning up.”

“Could have been, I guess. What else could it have been?”

This conversation reminded me of a family road-trip up to Lake Okoboji back when our kids were young. My mother’s folks used to spend their summers in a house-trailer by that spring-fed lake. We had stopped for a break at a small town north of Des Moines. There was an old train station there which had been long out of service. The station had been restored as a community museum.

I was looking around the grounds of the station and came across a hunk of what looked like rusty-brown stone with a sign beside it. It seemed that a local farmer had been working up some ground for planting years ago and came across this anomalous object, and he knew that it hadn’t been there the year before.

Eventually scientists were called in to look at the thing and they affirmed that it was an unusually large meteorite, mostly composed of iron, which had survived the fiery passage through our planet’s atmosphere. Most meteorites don’t.

Gotta go!

Larry