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Meteor showers

The worst thing about the current bad weather isn’t the constant rain: it’s that it means I don’t get to see tonight’s meteor shower.

I love meteor showers, and a few years before I moved to Glasgow I got to see a really spectacular one. I lived in a small town in Ayrshire at the time, and the combination of insomnia and curiosity drove me out of the house to have a look. I figured – correctly – that the nearby hills would be the perfect vantage point. Conditions were perfect too: the skies were crystal clear, and because I lived well away from any city light pollution wouldn’t affect the show. And because it was a weeknight I could be reasonably sure the back roads wouldn’t be populated by shaggers.

I jumped in my car, drove out to the hills and parked in a lay-by next to a farm gate. I opened the sunroof, wound down the windows, reclined the seat and lay back to enjoy the show.

The night was utterly silent (it was 3am, or thereabouts), and the shooting stars were fast and frequent. I think the silence made it more impressive, and before long I’d drifted into a kind of trance as the meteor storm became more and more intense. Watching the trails flare and disappear, seeing the long-delayed light from distant suns that may no longer exist, I was struck by the magic and beauty of the cosmos and the realisation that

MOO!

Jump? I damn near ended up in orbit.

It was, of course, a cow (as opposed to, I dunno, a mouse that’s really good at doing impressions, or a fox having an identity crisis). Just an ordinary cow, which had spotted my stargazing and decided to take a closer look. After watching me for a while, it decided to say hello. Hence the moo. Hence me jumping halfway out of the sunroof, cracking my knee off the steering wheel and filling the night air with the sound of a Scotsman swearing.

I’m sure that kind of thing doesn’t happen to Patrick Moore.