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Geminid Meteor Shower in Amboli

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Satish and Rohit were wandering in the Sahyadris. They were trekking in the area near Amboli Ghat.  That was 13 December 2001. When they reached the top of one mountain, they looked around and down the valley.  Wonderful nature greeted them. Satish yelled out, “How wonderful!” And there was an echo: “How wonderful!”  They were thrilled. Satish remembered Bhupen Hazarika’s song Pratiddhani Sunu moi pratiddhani sunu. He imagined Bhupen da on one of the peaks of the Bairah Range and singing aloud and echoing words occupying the entire surrounding.

The mesmerizing atmosphere thrilled them. Then Satish remembered their immediate mission was locating a place that would give them an unobstructed view of the entire sky and the view of the valley that would allow them to trace the falling meteors over a longer period.

They finally chose a spot and made themselves comfortable. The setting sun spread the golden rays of the twilight. Satish opened the dinner packet he had carried. They finished their meal. Spread the sheet they had packed in the backpack. And awaited the grand spectacle of nature.

The predicted shower of meteors called GEMINID had a promise of display of around a hundred meteors per hour. The shower caused by the meteors resulting from the debris of the asteroid RHEATON 3200 is usually impressive. But that being the no-moon night, even the faintest of the meteors would be visible due to external light such as moonlight not hindering the view.

The stars were glittering beautifully. Thousands of them twinkling made the sky a marvellous site. And there was a bright meteor falling straight from the direction of the constellation GEMINI. After showing itself for a few seconds, it disappeared. Satish and Rohit were astounded by the view. Before they could digest the great experience, another bright meteor zoomed in the sight and after beaming for a few seconds it also exited the scene. The two observers were thrilled. Slowly one after another, the meteors were shining in different directions. Suddenly a bluish—greenish meteor entered the arena and slowly made its exit. Its trail could be seen for a significant time. After a gap of a few minutes, another faint and fast-moving meteor appeared. Again after a gap, one bright meteor was seen. Slowly the frequency of appearing meteors increased. Few of them were colourful. At around 2 a.m. there was the peak of meteors. Over a hundred meteors could be counted in an hour. After some time the frequency started reducing. By dawn, it dwindled to a few in an hour.

Satish and Rohit noted the significant occasion. The direction, speed, intensity and colour of the meteor were recorded. Some extra observations were also written down.

When the eastern sky brightened, Satish and Rohit came down to the foothill to take some rest in a lodge. On the way in a small habitat of 12-15 small houses, there was a commotion. Many youngsters were trying to douse a fire. Satish and Rohit also joined the crowd attempting to extinguish the fire. Sometime in the night all of a sudden the large heaps of dry hay caught fire. Every villager was surprised as they were sure that no human being would do such a dastardly act.

But Satish and Rohit were thinking differently. “Could it be the act of micrometeorite? Normally, meteors do not reach our earth. But it is equally possible that very small-sized meteorites,  smaller than 2 mm in size, might have reached the earth. Before burning out completely, the extremely hot micro-meteorites might have hit the heaps of hay, instantly setting the hay on fire.” They were convinced that the unexpected happening was caused by extremely small meteorites –micro-meteorites. Satish and Rohit tried to look for some evidence that would be left behind by the burnt-out meteorites. After a careful search, they found an extremely hot meteorite. Finally, they picked them up from the road to hand them over to the meteorology laboratory.

After the meteors were cooled enough, Satish and Rohit carefully packed them, and then they set out to go to the nearby meteorological laboratory.

Image by Peace, love, happiness from Pixabay

Vijay Likhite

The author is a B.E. (Electronics) from Mumbai University in 1971. Owned a manufacturing unit. A few science and technology based articles in Marathi were published in Sunday Edition of local newspaper.

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