I remember, on one particular evening of my childhood, my father suggested that we go for a drive. This seemed strange to me, as it was close to my bedtime; but I was never one to turn down a road trip, no matter how late or brief. My father drove us to Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles, close to the Pacific Ocean. He found a nice, dark road, pulled off to the side, and rolled back the sunroof. The sky was much darker and filled with more stars than I was used to seeing from our home. Then, I saw a bright streak of light across the sky…then another. I had never seen such a thing before, and was very excited to see one or two of these luminous trails appear every minute. I was witnessing my very first meteor shower. My father must have seen a report about the Perseids on the evening news; knowing that I was very interested in all things related to the cosmos, he reasoned that a little stargazing was worth me staying up a bit past my bedtime. What he didn’t know, however, is how that little excursion would ultimately relate to my future career. The meteors seen during showers are streaks of light produced by dust from the tail of a comet as the particles enter our atmosphere. I’ve spent the past 20 years of my life involved in the study of those cosmic dust particles that have been collected in the stratosphere, and by a NASA spacecraft that have flown through the tail of a comet. Neither I nor my father I could have imagined that spontaneous childhood stargazing excursion would have related so closely to my life’s work.
- Christopher Snead, 2020