The Montgomery County Coin Club monthly meeting held on the evening of 14 March 2002 was memorable, not so much for what happened during the session as for what came before and after. A few hours earlier the Washington DC area experienced a meteorological surprise party: an abrupt windstorm, with gusts of 40-60 miles per hour. Forecasters failed to anticipate it until it was already upon the city.

When the squalls hit I was out jogging, a mile or so from home, and experienced the elements first-hand. Debris scattered before the gale like chickens in front of a fox. Dust was cast into my eyes, followed by raindrops driven so hard that they felt like sleet against the skin. Trees swayed and small branches fell across the trail ... an unexpected opportunity to practice hurdle jumping. No major harm done, fortunately, though power outages were widespread.

But some time during the Coin Club meeting the cold front swept by and clouds vanished --- so when the numismatists emerged a little after 9pm they were startled to see in a clear western sky the planet Venus, glowing brilliant white like a magnesium flare. A degree away from it was a two-day-old sliver of a crescent Moon, dark side lit dusky gray by earthshine: light from the Sun that reflects off the Earth, travels 240,000 miles to the Moon, and then bounces back to Earth again --- quite a cosmic game of billiards. Above the Venus-Moon pair shone Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars. (Mercury was there also, but already too low to be seen at that hour.) A pacific end to a violent day ....

TopicScience - TopicPersonalHistory - TopicRunning - 2002-05-22

(correlates: UpsideDownShadows, EmptyShelves, BosonsAndFermions, ...)