What adventurous activity one can do in the middle of a summer night? Preferably, with some other people?
I believe there are many options coming to your mind, but if you look for plans for one of the nights from late July till late August one of the good options would be stargazing. With a bit of luck, you will have a chance to see a meteor shower.
Although meteor showers occur also in other months, it is much more fun to watch them when it is warm outside. Even in the middle of a hot summer, sitting outside in the night without moving much may be cooler than it seems.
Cool in a cold kind of way. Snowboarding jacket kind of way.
Considering this, it’s not a surprise, that one of the most popular meteor showers is Perseids. They just happen conveniently in the warmest months.
For us, it was a third attempt to watch the Perseids properly.
The first one was on a hill in the forest close to where we lived. The second was more adventurous – we decided on a camping place in the forest 30 minutes away from our town. It was amazing to see shooting stars visible from the tent.
The third one was planned to be the most ambitious and farther away than ever.
We decided to travel to Les Pléiades in Switzerland. It was supposed to be one of the best places in the area, considering we didn’t have any desserts around. We checked the weather, friends in the area, packed (hopefully) everything and went for an adventure!
It felt pretty surreal. We were driving on winding narrow roads, far from any other signs of humans except the empty houses and cars left on the sidelines every couple of kilometers. Always up, in ever wilder areas.
It was crazily dark.
It’s kind of obvious because the best place for stargazing is far from light pollution, but knowing about it one thing. Driving in the car through such area is another.
You don’t know what is around farther away than a couple of meters. Things just appear from nowhere and any lights cast weird shadows around. Sometimes you were seeing a bizarre light source far away and sometimes a fox.
Things got pretty interesting when we were relatively close to the top. The road got wider and a few buildings appeared. There was also a fence and a parking place with quite many cars. Everything in a total darkness.
I probably have too much imagination, but it looked very disturbing. The next thing we saw was a great completion of this horror-like image – a lonely, slow-moving wanderer with a headlamp. Probably a fellow stargazer.
But honestly, he looked more like a zombie…
We climbed a bit more and decided to leave the car in the most sensible place we saw. When the front lights turned off we started to see the beauty of the surrounding.
We were close to the top of one of the mountains. In front, we could see the silhouette of the other hills and between them the lights of the nearby city. But on that day dots of lights felt more like a bowl of stars that fell down earlier. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true.
We went through the gate to walk through to the pasture. It was dark and empty around. The only thing I’d never expect to see at that moment were cows. Sleeping cows. But they were there, ringing delicately with bells hanging on the neck.
We went further and found a perfect place. When you sit in such lace for a while and your eyes get used to the darkness, it seems like there is so much light around!
But still, it was dark enough to see a Milky Way, so it must have been quite dark.
I wanted to take some photos but stupidly didn’t take the tripod with me. It was a heavy case of „No light, no tripod, no hope”. Good part: I could focus on looking for shooting stars. Bad part: the only photos that were not blurred were from the same viewpoint – when my camera was on its back.
I don’t know if it was an accident but I felt like the shooting stars that we saw were similar to the ones from the movies – bright, clear and spectacular. Definitely not as many cases of „I’m not sure if I just saw one or I’m tired and I start seeing stars”.
In was amazing to lie far away from the city and look at shining points milliard light years far away from us. How much the light from those stars had to travel to be seen by us? It feels so impossible. Maybe because I’m getting impatient after few hours of a car ride already.
And to think that this „pieces of light” traveled so much just to get captured by the camera. And I have it engraved on one of the photos. I’m sure it was not the goal of any of them, but it feels pretty special.
Similarly, the shooting stars: some debris was hanging out casually nobody knows for how long. And now it was falling and turning into ashes with a spectacular blink. And people enjoy looking at their last seconds.
Many other stargazers looked at the same miracle in many places. Far away or pretty close. I felt so connected to all citizens of Earth at that moment. Many people were sleeping or not caring at this time, but we were on one piece of rock, together. In one team somehow. Swimming in a huge soup of unknown things.
The Second craziest thing was the fact, that at 1 in the night the cows were already awake.