Satish and his younger brother Rohit were wandering on the Amboli Ghats of Sahyadris. The time was 9:30 on the night of 13th December 2001.

When they reached the cottage they had hired, Satish said, “Rohit, let us go to sleep now. We will have to get up at 3:30 in the morning, get ready, and go to the spot we had selected to take up our position. The Geminid meteor shower is expected to reach its peak at around 4.00. This shower is particularly special, as this is a no-moon night. So, we will be able to spot even the faintest meteor as the light pollution is absolutely, minimal here. We should be able to capture the maximum of meteors of the grand display of nature." Satish got into his bed.

Lying on his bed Rohit said,” Dada, I am not getting sleep. I want to watch the meteor shower right now.”

"Rohit, yes. We can see the falling meteors now also. But they will be few. So, sleep now for a few hours, get freshened up and we will witness the grand display at around 3:30. Sleep quickly.”

“ Dada, I am very much excited to see the wonderful display. I am not able to sleep.”

“Now, please sleep quietly and get up early.”

Rohit tried to sleep closing his eyes.

At 3.00 Satish was up and out of bed. He woke up Rohit. Both of them got ready and stepped out of the cottage.

In the dark, they headed for the location 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 reached the spot and made themselves comfortable. Spread the sheet they had packed in the backpack. And awaited the grand spectacle of nature.  

Satish said, ”The predicted shower of meteors called GEMINID has 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 this being the no-moon night, even the faintest of the meteors would be visible as there won’t be anything hindering the view.”

The cottage that they had hired was left behind nearly a kilometer away.

The stars were glittering beautifully. Thousands of them twinkling made the sky a marvellous site.

They looked around and down in the valley. The wonderful nature was greeting them. They could enjoy the atmosphere the maximum. The melodious call of the fan-tailed fly catcher enthralled them. 

Satish yelled out loud, “Hey, how wonderful.” And there was an echo. “Hey, how wonderful!” They were thrilled. Satish remembered the Assamese poem written by the well-known Bhupen Hazarika, “Pratiddhani Sunu moi pratiddhani sunu". Satish imagined Bhupen da on one of the peaks of the Bairah Range of Assam, singing aloud and echoing words occupying the entire surroundings.

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, one bright meteor was seen. Slowly the frequency of appearing meteors increased. Few of them were colourful. Over a hundred meteors could be counted in an hour. Slowly, the frequency of falling meteors started reducing. By the 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 in mind. Some extra observations were also written down.

When the eastern sky brightened, Satish and Rohit vacated the cottage and started coming down to the foothill.

On the way, in a small habitat of 12-15 small houses, some happening had created a commotion. Satish saw a blaze of fire was flaring up probably burning the stocks of dried hay. Many youngsters were trying to douse the fire. Satish and Rohit also joined the crowd attempting to extinguish the flames. After exhaustive efforts, the fire was under control.

Satish tried to find out the details of happening. He was told that sometime in the night, all of a sudden a large heap of dry hay caught fire. Before they could think of further action, the nearby stocks of hay started catching fire and getting burned out one after another. The entire village got together and tried to put off the fire using buckets collected from every house and drawing water from the nearby well. After arduous efforts, the fire was brought under control but not before the stock of hay of the entire village was turned into ashes.

Every villager was surprised as they were sure that no human being would have done such a dastardly act. But then what could have caused this debacle?

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." Satish was 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 it up from the field to hand it over to the meteorology laboratory.

When the meteor was cooled enough, Satish and Rohit carefully packed it and they set out to go to the nearby meteorological laboratory.

The early-bird experience of teenager Rohit under the guidance of his elder brother Satish, was absolutely unforgettable.

November 13, 2023 18:21

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