As the orange glow of the sun receded in the West, stars began to appear in the East. The engine in the Jeep quietly purred as Rich Mountain was being smoothly scaled. Traveling upward from the North end of Mena Street, the ascent began steeply. Talking quietly we wondered, as we passed each turnout alongside the highway, if those that were parked there were on a similar mission. Finally on top of the spine of Rich Mountain, the Western sky was a golden glow, although no part of the Sun was longer visible.
In the distance the Rich Mountain Tower was haloed by the golden glow and clearly outlined. Thinking that there might be less light pollution at the tower, we turned in. As we reached the top, we could tell that there was way too many trees and the lights from Queen Wilhelmina Lodge would likely be a problem, and we needed a clear view of the constellation Perseus.
We continued on Westward, passing the lodge, continuing on towards Oklahoma, down the backbone of the mountain. One of the most scenic drives in North America was mostly obscured by the increasing darkness.
Occasional wildlife could be seen as we proceeded on our quest Westward. The night became cooler, causing a lowering of the air conditioning speed on this very warm August evening.
At each turnout we stopped briefly to check for visibility in the desired direction, and at some there were others already there, looking skyward, also. We hoped for a vacant turnout. Being conscious of how little we actually knew about our quest, we wanted to be able to talk about what we were about to witness. As nervous newbies we continued on Westward, until we actually began to see the phenomenon that we sought.
The next vista was just the right one for us. No light pollution for the bare eye viewing of the meteor shower. The Perseid meteor shower is so named because the meteors seem to come from the constellation Perseus in our night sky. Our goal was to spend a quiet evening viewing this event with the unaided eye.
Standing for a few minutes, our necks began to feel the strain of constant looking upward, it was time for the reclining lawn chairs to come out from the jeep.
A light, mild breeze came gently up the steep slope of the mountain, and there were no mosquito problems.
It was arm chair comfortable, tee shirt wearing, quiet and awesome, meteor viewing.
Soon the cold sodas in the ice chest came out as we marveled over each magnificent display across the sky.
Before we knew it, it was much later than our usual bedtime. The excitement of the brilliant streaks coming from outer space, across our Ouachita Mountain sky had totally captured our attention.
The Orionids will be visible on October the 21st. We may need a light jacket by then !
For more information about meteorite viewing you may go to: http://stardate.org/nightsky/meteors/ on the world wide web. Interested in photographing your experience ? Here is more internet information: http://www.saugus.net/Photos/meteor_photography_tips_night.shtml