Shooting Stars

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26 July 06 - 0030 - En route to Kupang, Indonesia

I've seen three shooting stars since I came on watch half an hour ago, and I'd only been looking at a sixth of the night sky. No, less than that - perhaps 60˚ horizontally and 30˚ vertically. They were all abaft of us or to port quarter, and from the horizon up to the solar panels - whatever angle that is, when I'm standing or sitting in the cockpit.

It's dark tonight, the dark of the moon. The stars are vivid, shrouded by clouds only in a vague rim, like the last fringe of hair surrounding a bald pate. My eyes had not even adjusted from the lights in the salon when I saw the first shooting star. It streaked down into my field of view from above the bimini, continuing its proscribed course nearly vertically towards the ground - or the sea, as the case may be. It did not arrive there, not by my point of view anyway. It winked out before it reached the horizon, as meteors are wont to do, and I thought no more of it. I didn't even spare a wish for it, as my father was talking to me.

The second shooting star I saw - I think it fair to call this one 'shooting' rather than 'falling' - traveled nearly parallel to the horizon. From my perspective it was only slightly below the level of the bimini, and sloped oh so gently towards the earth. I found it odd that the two meteors should appear so near each other, both in time and spatially, though odder things have happened on my night watches. I once saw seven shooting stars and five satellites during one hour-and-a-half watch. I believe I was lying on my back staring at the heavens the entire time, so I'm not surprised I saw so many. But this time it was just chance that I was looking in the right place.

I was in the middle of my wake-up exercises only a few minutes later when I saw the third. I call it a shooting star because that's the only thing I can imagine it was. Surely a supernova lasts longer? That was my second thought. My first was that a sailboat had snuck up behind us and flashed its masthead light. It was bright, it was quick, and it didn't appear to move on way or the other. Perhaps it was coming straight towards me. If so, I have never seen the like of it before. It was eerie and powerful - and of course sent me running for the binoculars to confirm there was no boat looming up behind us.

It never pays to second-guess Nature.

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