When You Wish Upon A Star …

Have you ever wished upon a shooting star?

I consider myself a pretty lucky guy, but for some reason when it comes to witnessing celestial events, luck has never been on my side. To give you an idea what I’m talking about, I once sat with about three dozen stargazers and was the only one who didn’t see a comet racing across the sky. It was frustrating not being able to share in every-one’s excitement.

My unlucky ways changed Nov. 11 thanks to a stray cat and my Thai ridgeback Nui.

It happened around 5:15 a.m. I had just stepped outside to go on a morning walk when my dog bolted out of the garage and chased after a cat that was clawing its way through a garbage bag. By the time I turned the corner, the feline had escaped unharmed and Nui was heading back to me. At that precise moment, I looked up and saw a bright fireball with a long tail streaking high above the mountains. Seconds later, it vanished. I stood in silence, knowing I had just seen my first shooting star!

“Did you see that, Nui?” I asked out loud. She briefly stared at me and then trotted down the driveway. I needed to tell someone, but no one was up. And being the prankster in the family, I knew it wasn’t worth waking up the wife and children because they wouldn’t believe me. Was I supposed to make a wish? Was it too late? Too bad, I made one anyway … just in case.

My heart was racing with excitement and I simply could not stop smiling. Remember, I wasn’t stargazing, I just happened to look up.

I felt like a child again and found myself humming a tune we used to sing every Sunday night while watching The Wonderful World of Disney in the early ’70s.

When you wish upon a star

Makes no difference who you are

Anything your heart desires

Will come to you Over the next few days, I shared the story with family and friends, and nearly everyone found it hard to believe I had never seen a shooting star before. Since then, dozens of people have told me about their shooting-star sightings and how some of their wishes have come true. I also was reminded not to share what I wished with anyone.

It’s been more than 25 years since I sat at Kuykendall Hall at the University of Hawaii-Manoa for Astronomy 101, but from what I recall, shooting stars have nothing to do with stars. They are tiny pieces of space debris or little chunks of rock that are swept up by our planet as they orbit the sun. As Earth moves around the sun, some of these dust particles hit the atmosphere at great speeds. When they enter the atmosphere, they heat up, glow and then burn away. Scientists call them meteors; we call them shooting stars or falling stars.

Your chances of seeing one depend on your location, how clear the sky is and how patient you are. Being away from big city lights and having the time to sit and watch the sky significantly increase your chances. Scientists also say there are more shooting stars right before dawn because that’s when we are facing the direction in which Earth is moving, so more debris is being intercepted.

My lucky sighting happened about an hour before dawn, and like the song says it came out of nowhere. I don’t know if it will ever happen again but if it does, I’ll be prepared with that wish …

Like a bolt out of the blue

Fate steps in and sees you through

When you wish upon a star

Your dreams come true rkmizutani@gmail.com