Tuesday, June 18, 2024

'The Night the Stars Fell'

by CAROL SHIRK KNAPP Contributing Writer
| November 16, 2022 1:00 AM

I can't say I'm even an amateur astronomer — but some years back I began calling myself a “sky miner.”The heavens are fascinating to me. Cloud formations. Stars. Moon. I'm always looking to see what I can see. Discovering anything unusual is like striking it rich.

Last week I was up and down in the night following the total lunar eclipse, and a chance to see the blood moon at 2a. I remember the time a Minnesota neighbor and I stood in the yard during a partial eclipse, jokingly waving at ourselves when we saw Earth's shadow appear on the moon.

In the pre-dawn morning today I was at the window searching for a “shooting star.” The Leonid meteor shower peaks November 18. I hoped to snag an early bird. Sure enough, I caught my breath as one flashed above me. Its glory over in a blink.

I can't begin to imagine the spectacular sight that occurred overhead on November 12, 1833. One newspaper reported, “The very heavens seemed ablaze.” An estimated 72,000 “falling stars” per hour lit up the entire North American continent. Though how you'd count I have no idea.

No one knew what the meteor phenomenon was. The Lakota tribe reset their calendars to mark the event. Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church, thought it was the Second Coming of Christ. Abraham Lincoln noted it. It garnered the title, “The Night the Stars Fell.”

Yale astronomer, Denison Olmsted, wanted to understand what had happened. He got newspapers around the country to print a call to the people — asking for precise information from those who had observed the meteors. His findings were published a year later. He concluded that “the shower radiated from a point in the constellation Leo and speculated that it was caused by the earth passing through a cloud of space dust.”

Advanced scientific knowledge tells us that “every November the earth passes through debris in the trail of the comet known as Tempel-Tuttle, causing the meteor showers we know as the Leonids.” About every thirty-three years they put on an extra spectacular show — none equaling that of 1833. Not this year, however — fifteen or so an hour is all we'll see.

Not a cause for disappointment. I was thrilled to glimpse even one. The Bible explains that God has revealed Himself in “all that He has made.” All my life I've sought God in nature. The sea. The earth. The sky.

There's an open invitation to meet Him in His creation. Always there is something to woo — to stir an ooh or ahh — to make the heart swell with grandeur. “The Night the Stars Fell” sounds dazzling beyond comprehension. But then, that's God.