Thursday, June 30, 2011

Noisy Falling Stars?

Okay, while we are on the subject of celestial objects, here’s a story that comes under the heading of “Ya’ll ain’t gonna believe this stuff”.

When we were kids we would go out in the orchard on the family ranch in Laytonville on the hot summer nights. Usually at family gatherings there were 8 or 9 kids. We would find a nice warm grassy spot still hot from the heat of the day. We would lay on our backs, tell a few scarey stories and watch the night sky. We would tell stories about the big dipper, the north star, the milky way and the moon.

We would keep count the falling stars that we would see. Whoever got to see the first one got to recite the poem “I wish I may, I wish I might, make a wish on the first falling star I see tonight”. You say it your way, we said it ours. Then we would make a wish. The other rule that we had is, that you could never reveal what you wished for. Which made wishing a lot more fun when you didn’t have to tell anybody.

As we counted the stars, whoever counted the most got to win. Of course there were endless arguments over whether or not you reaaallly, really saw one. If somebody was a star behind, and they saw one “Out of the corner of my eye right over there, it was so faint that you could just barely, barely see it, but it was there!” Another kid would say; “Twas not, you cheater” and the argument was on. There was no chance that you could hear anything besides kids arguing.

My uncle, who would be in his nineties now if he had lived. A man who I would trust with my life, anywhere any time. Came out one night and told us about when he was a kid, that he would come out to our spot in the orchard and lay on his back and watch the falling stars. He said that it was so quite when he was a kid that you could hear the falling stars pass overhead. He said that they made a very, very faint hissing, sizzling sound, that sounded like the old 4th of July sparklers that were made out of magnesium powder on a wire. The 4th of July was never over until every little kid had a third degree burn or two from them. And he said that some times you could hear a slight booming sound like far away thunder after a long time, that could have really been far of thunder but he liked to think that it was the falling stars. Remember, this was back before airplanes made sonic booms, so it was strange to connect the phenomenon. But he thought that it was related.

He was sure that the hissing sound came from the meteors because you could hear them go over. In my heart, I know that he actually heard them. Can you explain this to me? Or, have you heard a falling star on a quiet night. This is not a trick or a set-up, but an actual story that my uncle told, and as I said, I believe it with all my heart, but I've never been lucky enough to hear one.


Anonymous said...

I've heard them.


Ernie Branscomb said...

What did you hear, a boom or a hiss?

Anonymous said...

hiss. It had to be close.


Robin Shelley said...

I have never heard them but I sure do want to.

Anonymous said...

In response to your question I'm posting an email I sent earlier this week.

Hello Barry,

I'm writing to you regarding your article in the North Coast Journal. I know nothing about the incident in Humboldt Bay but I do know that meteorites can make sounds.
I observed a meteorite fall to earth. It was about forty five years ago. I was fishing with my father on the shore of Lake Isabella, California. It was around seven o'clock in the evening. As we were standing there the meteorite passed over the lake just to the south of us. It was traveling very nearly parallel with the ground. I can't really say how high it was but it was readily observable as a blue white glowing object and at one point a piece fell away leaving a small blue glowing trail as it fell. The meteorite made a distinct sound between a hiss and the faint sound of bacon crackling in the pan! The sound was not very loud but was easily discernible. It was flying from east to west and passed from sight to the west.
I'm sure that this was a meteorite as there was an article in the Bakersfield newspaper the next day. The local college
sent a team up to search for it as it was believed to have struck Greenhorn Mountain which rises to the west. They were unsuccessful in locating it though.

My memories are little vague as it was a long time ago but the sight and sound of it are still very clear in my mind.

Bill Pitt

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thank-you Bill.
Many people have told me that they hear falling stars. I've just never listened for them.

Ernie Branscomb said...

F.Y.I. You can watch the Perseids meteors best from mid-July until the end of August. The Perseids peak on August 12th this year. Have fun and remember to listen…

You can find meteors anytime in the summer sky. The Persides shower starts slowly in mid July and peaks August 12th then slows down until the end of August.

Ben said...

Back in the 80s, I was living in Trinidad. The news announced a big meteor shower for that night and no moon. I was ready to get some pictures and then the fog rolled in.
I put my camera and tripod in the truck and headed out 299. At Lord Ellis Summit the sky was clear but there were too many trees. I headed on toward Berry Summit, stopped at the outlook and saw that the car headlights would be a problem. I headed on up to the summit and Forest Route 1 and turned south. Pretty soon I found an open area where I could pull off and set up my camera. So there I sat waiting for meteors. Silence. After awhile, I began to get nervous. More silence. What if some dope growers came by and saw me there? The more I thought about it the less fun I was having and finally, I packed up and went home picture less.
In the meantime, some enterprising fellows (I assume) dug a great big pit in Moonstone Beach and, the next day, declared to the press that they had found a meteor crater from the night before. Well, it worked and the TS sent a photog to pic the big hole in the beach. It amused me that no scientist came forward to suggest that it was a prank and the whole thing just faded away.