Back in early December I found out about a meteor shower that would be peaking overnight December 13th-14th with up to 100 per hour visible to the naked eye, the Geminid Meteor Shower. I’ve stayed out late for meteor showers in the past, sometimes even planning camping trips around them. Typically there were one or two incredible streaks across the sky and a few weak ones that just left me wanting more. I was told there would be 100 per hour, from dusk till dawn, I could not turn this down. I planned a trip to one of my favorite spots in the Ouachita National Forest, Crystal Mountain. It is one of the taller mountains in this part of the Ouachitas, and from the top you have a clear view of the North-Northeast sky where the meteor shower would originate. The top is accessible with the right vehicle which makes it much easier for bringing watch party gear. As a bonus, I got a notice the week before that there was another meteor shower that would bump the number from 100 to 120 per hour that night. That’s two meteors per minute!
Thursday the 13th I loaded up the truck with supplies, picked up my friend James and we made our way to the forest. The weather said it might get down to 32 that night, but we were going to be on top of a mountain, where the wind would surely bite us. So our supplies included lots of firewood, a couple coolers of hot water, coffee pots for the fire, a dutch oven, some red beans and rice, and some amazing gumbo, hand warmers, and layers of clothes. We wanted to stay warm inside and out.
We arrived at the mountain about 8 o’clock and before we had a chance to setup our gear two brilliant meteors as bright as flares streaked long across the North sky. That was our sign it was going to be a great night. We knew the peak viewing time would not be until 2 am, which would give us plenty of time to get a raging fire going and have it down to just hot coals for the main event. We did not want a bright fire to take away our night vision. Once we got the fire roaring, and our gear setup we leaned back in our camp chairs and watched the show.
There were meteors coming from every part of the night sky. There was never a dull moment in this show. We’d all call them out as we saw them, some would be gone quickly, and others would last long enough for the whole group to spot them. We had friends come and go that night, but James and I were the only ones to pull an all-nighter on that mountain top. Over the course of the night, I saw more meteors than I’ve seen in my entire life. I’ve also never seen a meteor as bright as the ones from that night. It was a very awe inspiring night and we felt a great connection to the universe. Even as the sun was starting to come up in the east sky, we saw the brilliance of a meteor that came straight down in the east sky towards the rising sun and was not fazed by the sun’s dawn light.
As we packed up to head home that morning, we had big smiles on our faces. The universe gave us the best holiday light show we could ask for, and we got to share that show with great friends.
(Special Thanks to Kelly Shipp for allowing us the use of his awesome image.)