The Night the Stars Fell
Though meteor showers are common, no one predicted the explosion of shooting stars that illuminated the night sky on November 12, 1833. Just before dawn, people threw on clothes and gathered in roads and fields to watch the 150,000 meteors (about 30 per second) dance in plain view during the storm’s peak. One eyewitness told the Pantagraph newspaper in Illinois that, “the very heavens seemed to be ablaze.” Though many were spellbound, not all rejoiced in the cosmic celebration. At the time, the South was a hotbed for the national religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening. Some awoke terrified, fearing it was the End of Days, as predicted by a Bible verse: “and the stars of heaven shall fall.” But in the weeks following, newspapers demystified the showers with science.