A principal player in the annual nativity and an ever-present Christmas theme is the Star (of Bethlehem). It alerted the Three Wise Men to the birth of Jesus and guided them - with their gifts - to the newborn Messiah. What appeared in the East around 6 BC (which rather torpedoes the notion of BC, but we digress…) is now thought to be of cometary, not astral origin. The ‘Christ Comet’ belongs to a class of astronomical object that periodically visit our Solar System; dirty snowballs of rock and ice which vaporise as they approach the sun to grow spectacular tails millions of miles long. The debris of their wakes criss-cross Earth’s orbit, and each year - on the exact same dates - burns up in an annual celestial firework display known as a ‘meteor shower’. The calendar of these is scrupulously reliable and a dozen or more showers, often named after the (apparent) constellation of their origin, provide the chance to witness dozens of ‘shooting stars’ each hour. Particularly noteworthy are the ‘Quadrantids’ (4th/5th Jan), ‘Perseids’ (13th/14th Aug) and ‘Geminids’ (13th/14th Dec). Before we stray further off piste, there are a couple of interesting meteorological coda’s to all of this. Firstly, meteor and meteorology are derivations of the ancient Greek ‘Meteoros’ which means ‘high up in the air’. Rather more profound is that for many places in the world - and irrespective of hemispheres and season - rainfall is observed to subtly cluster around certain calendar dates. These have been labelled ‘singularities’ but mainly dismissed by science as coincidence - because no conventional climatology can explain such periodicity. Spookily enough these reliably wet days tend to occur precisely 30 days after the peaks of the major meteor showers. And 30 days is exactly the time it takes for meteoric dust and fallout to gently settle through the atmosphere to arrive at a level where it can seed clouds on which all rainfall relies. With elegance and simplicity, we present the magical and seductive case for ‘cosmic rain’.
So ends our trilogy of the extra-terrestrial and vaguely meteorological, and indeed another year. If you have been amused or entertained or educated, please lend us a Google review here. But in any event, thank you for continuing to read - and wishing you and your bubble - with all the enthusiasm we can muster – a very Merry Christmas. Click on the link at the bottom of this email to request a 2021 Calendar.