Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Missed the Leonid Meteors? Find Them Here With Pics and Superstitions

Leonids Over Niagara Falls

We pass through the remnants of an ancient comet every November during the Leonid meteor shower.

The night sky lights as minute particles within the comet's ice flash as they pass through the earth's upper atmosphere and burn up in a beautiful flash of light. More info from Huff Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/20/leonid-meteor-shower-2012-return-tuesday_n_2162177.html

The peak of the Leonid happened this morning, with up to 20 flashes per hour. View a few here if you missed them.


The world has been captured and sometimes frightened by heavenly bodies as long as history has been recorded. Many cultures have been shaped by superstitions, some relating to the comets and meteors they saw in the night sky. For example, some native Americans had beliefs relating to meteor showers that struck fear: 

  • The Blackfeet of Montana believed a meteor was a sign that sickness would come to the tribe in the coming winter, or that a great chief had just died.
  • The Kawaiisu (California) thought a meteor that started high and fell to the horizon was an omen of sickness and death.
  • The Cahuilla thought a meteor was the spirit of their first shaman, Takwich, who was disliked by his people. Takwich was said to wander the skies at night looking for people far from their tribe. When someone was found, he stole their spirit, and sometimes even the person, took them back to his home and ate them.
  • The Shawnee believed meteors were beings "fleeing from the wrath of some adversary, or from some anticipated danger."
  • (From Meteors and Meteorites http://www.crystalinks.com/meteors.html )

    The following are two quotes form the 1949 book The Encyclopedia of Superstitions from 1949:

    Falling, or shooting stars, are souls coming down from heaven to animate new-borne children.

    When death occurs the flame of life lights up a new star.

    Some superstitions could bring good things. It is said if when you see a meteor you can make a wish before it disappears, your wish will come true.
    Or, if you see a shooting star and say "money" three times, your pockets will be full.

    The Einsisheim meteor depicted in a 1492 etching.

    Although we now know what a comets and meteors are, we still hold onto many superstitions relating to them, and probably make wishes on them--it sure can't hurt.

    Some interpretation of superstitions from 100 Unfortunate Days:

    Day 98

    Some popular superstitions and my interpretations: a black cat crossing your path is bad luck. I think any cat crossing your path is bad luck because they are familiars of the devil. The black cats are the worst because they are the most evil. Their souls have been charred and they are diseased and if they scratch you, you will most likely die.

    If there are thirteen people at the dinner table, one will die within the year. This is probably a flat-out fact. One out of three or four women get breast cancer, several are probably just old, someone there is probably brewing some kind of heart disease and accidents happen every day. One of those thirteen is in for it.

    Breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck. Probably based on the idea that your image contains a part of your soul.

    I don’t believe in any of the traditional superstitions—but I have some of my own. For instance, if I pray too much the devil will get me. If I look at myself in the mirror in the dark I will see something terrible. If I am not around when my children are sick they will get worse. If I want something really bad and I get it, and I will be very unhappy. The devil is there at 3:00AM.

    I would love to know if there are any superstitions you believe in and why. Looking forward to hearing about them :)



    1. I didn't realize there were meteor showers in November. How could I have missed that, all these years? Of course, now I live in the Vancouver area. We don't see much sky above 500 feet or so, this time of year.

    2. Leonids in November and Perseids in August.
      I've seen the Leonids that were so amazing I could not believe my eyes--non-stop lights in the sky for hours...I saw hundreds. Perseids are even supposed to be better.
      Can't wait til August.

      1. i missed them! darn. that means i have to wait for next year's showers in August and November!

    3. I KNOW!! I missed them last year because of cloud cover--boooo. They are so awesome. I will have to make sure to remind everyone when they come around again, then keep our fingers crossed for good weather!!

    4. Great post. Awesome pics! Thanks for sharing. My only superstition has to do with sports. If my favorite team is doing well, I won't change the position I'm sitting in. Obviously they're playing good because of that right? I know, it makes no sense, but you wouldn't have convinced me of that last night when Indiana was pulling away from Georgetown in overtime last night:) Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

      Paul R. Hewlett

    5. Ahaha!! Love that Paul!!
      Someone has to get a picture of you struggling to stay still for your team :)
      If they only knew--in fact I think I am going to tell them!! They need more support like that.
      Maybe I'm going to copy you--do you think if I sit REAL still I will get picked up by a Big 6?
      Thanks so much for stopping in--you made me smile :)

    6. Fortunately, where I live is relatively free of light pollution, but on this particular night I only had a small window in my night sky between the clouds. And it was freakin' cold. I sat out long enough to see one shooting star, then called it a day.

      I'm actually superstitious about quite a few things, but it's a battle with my logical side. I am, but I try to pretend I'm not :)


    7. The year I saw them the best it was FREEZING. I bundled up my poor 4 year old and dragged him outside with me--he was unimpressed.
      Love that you pretend or try not to be superstitious. I do the same thing. I remember as a kid opening umbrellas in the house (mine happened to be a clear "bubble" umbrella that was all the rage)--so I could tempt fate.
      I have issues...


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