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DayCreek Journal

November 25 , 2003

Strange Times in the Twilight Zone


For the last few years, I have been watching every November for the Leonid meteor shower and it has never been disapointing. (Even when I had to drive to Tennessee for clear skies!). Last year's event produced the most meteors but with a full moon, most of them were lost in the haze of a bright night sky.

This year's event was to be less spectacular, but with forecasts for up to 80 meteors per hour (at 1 AM), that's didn't sound too shabby to me. So, I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning hoping to see numbers close to the prediction, but sadly the numbers were much lower.

The sky certainly wasn't to blame. It was crystal clear that night without any clouds. The sky was filled from horizon to horizon with stars, but very few meteors. There was a bright meteor about 8:30 in the evening while I was driving down the road, but that was about all of the exitement. I estimate that there were maybe 15 to 20 meteors per hour. The show was a bust and I was unable to capture any with the camera. Giving up all hope, I went to bed and called it a night.

The next day (Wednesday) was another bright and sunny day—not something you see too many of during the month of November. I did some odds and ends around the house preparing for winter: bringing firewood into the house, stacking strawbales on top of the cistern (insulation), slurring paper and bringing countless buckets of sand and clay into the house. I figured that if I was to do any masonry work over the winter, it would be smart to stock the house with all of the materials necessary in order to mix mortar. All and all it was a very pleasant day. Little did I know what was in store for me that night.

Wednesday evening was quite delightful for November. I went out around 8:30 to take a look at the stars and to see if there were any Leonids. There wasn't too much going on, so I came back inside to wait for Jo's nightly phone call.

We talked for about an hour on the phone and afterwards I went outside again to check out the night sky. There was a bit of a glow to the north, but I couldn't tell if they were the Northern Lights or not. Going on the Internet, it appeared that a band of high clouds were coming through the area, so I figured it was light reflecting off the clouds from some distant city.

Click on the above image to see a larger view.

I was quite tired, so off to bed I went. I woke up around 3:30 AM and noticed it seemed brighter than usual outside but didn't think much of it. I woke up again at around 4:00 AM and it still seemed unusually bright. I decided to get out of bed and investigate. I opened the door to look outside and immediately realized it was the Northern Lights!

I ran back into the house, grabbed my camera and tripod and ran back outside. The whole northern sky was glowing green with a few tinges of red intermixed. The sky to the north was flickering almost like lightning. It was quite strange to see the sky acting the way it was. Not only was the sky acting strangely, but the coyotes were howling and the metal roof on the house was making weird noises. Noises? Yup. The roof was making noises like it was expanding and contracting. I've heard the roof do that when the sun is shining strongly and then goes behind a cloud, but why the roof was doing this in the middle of the night was beyond me.

About 10 minutes after I started photgraphing, there was a burst of activity. Red curtains danced almost all the way up to the zenith. I kept taking photograph after photograph, hoping that in my rush to get set up, the camera had been configured properly.

Finally, things settled down a bit and I rushed back into the house to check out the photographs. Luckily, I had everthing set up properly...uh...except the lens was slightly out of focus. Drats! I downloaded the photographs on the PC and went back out to take more photographs. Unfortunately, the best of the show had passed but I decided to keep shooting just in case the sky fired back up again.

Click on the above image to see a larger view.

The glow was still quite brilliant to the north and while I was taking a photograph, a Leonid streaked by! I thought how ironic it was that I couldn't get a photograph of one the night before, but now with the northern lights going I got a meteor and the lights in one photo. Cool beans!

I went back inside the house, downloaded the photographs and sure enough, the photograph turned out just great. So, back outside again to try a few more photographs before dawn.

I had just taken my first photograph when a car went down the highway and as soon as it passed the house, there was a screech of tires, a big boom and then dead silence. I immediately knew what had happened. Someone evidentally had a collision with a deer.

I thought about driving down the road to see if the driver was okay, but I didn't have my car keys on me and I had been running around outside in just my sweats and sandals. I walked towards the house to grab a jacket and my keys when I heard the car slowly start down the road. Evidently, the car was at least drivable and the driver was okay. I never found out the story of the accident, but I'm sure there's a car in a body shop somewhere with a not too happy owner.

I took a few more photographs, but the moon was now coming up over the bluffs washing out the sky a bit. I was just about ready to go inside when another Leonid streaked through the sky and I got my second Leonid/aurora photograph. All and all, it was quite a strange and exciting time at 4:30 in the morning.

Click on the above image to see a larger view.

At 6:00 AM I went back to bed for a couple of hours of rest. When I awoke, I noticed another strange event had occurred. I had some wind chimes hanging from a hook next to the door of the house. They somehow had mysteriously fallen off the hook. Nothing was broken. It was just as if someone had taken the chimes off the hook and gently laid them on the ground. The winds certainly weren't strong that morning and were blowing out of the south. (The wind chimes hung on a hook on the north side of the house.)

I rehung the chimes and tried my darnedest to knock them off their hook. No matter how hard I tried, they wouldn't fall. The only way I could get them down was to get up on the ladder and unhook them.

So, how did they get knocked off the hook? Was it the ghost of the deer? Was it the Leonids? The Northern Lights? The coyotes? Rod Serling? Big Foot? Whatever the reason, it was one weird and spooky morning.

Strange times indeed.