Willow and I were up early with hope that the skies were clear. To our delight the stars were shining. So off to the other side of Swansea for dark skies to try and catch a glimpse of Comet 2022 E3 ZTF.
I couldn’t find it with my naked eye but was hopeful the camera could pick it up. I knew roughly where it should be located among the stars and pointed the camera in that direction.
Comet 2022 E3 ZTF has passed around the sun and is nearing its closest distance to Earth. The last time the comet passed near the sun was 50,000 years ago.
Sure enough, once home and the pictures downloaded I was able to locate the Comet, but it is very dim. I am not sure if I could be able to spot it with my eye alone. However, I stand a better chance now that I know exactly where to look.
It was nice to be out looking at the stars after, what seems, like a long stretch of overcast skies.
A quiet morning walk. Orion is up. Mars is red between the red giants Aldebaran and Betelgeuse. To set your eyes on them is to get your bearings. To realize the biggest and fastest is only because it’s closest. An optical illusion.
The cemetery is dark. I know my way around. The tourists still haven’t blocked Mom and Dad’s view. They used to dig the graves here, a chore given to them by my Grandfather, for extra money after the war. They will be the last of us buried here. Lake view even for the dead has skyrocketed.
Was up in the middle of the night admiring the stars. This morning a brilliant conjunction of Venus and a waning crescent moon rose above the mountain horizon. A spectacular sight, enough to take your breath, and one that cannot be captured properly with a camera.
A reminder that I must start getting out more to put myself in position to see such splendour. I have been delinquent, as of late, in my nighttime excursions.
The sky cleared on Saturday morning. Willow and I awoke early and headed out to see the planet alignment of Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Saturn. We looked for high ground with an unobstructed view of the east.
We waited for the moon to rise. By then it was getting light. I could not see any of the planets with my naked eye. I tried several settings on my camera to pick up the planets, hoping I could see them when enlarged on the computer screen, however was unsuccessful.
A couple things could have been working against me. First, there was a slight haze in the east and could have easily obscured the dim light of the planets. Second, it gets light early here at our latitude of 50°N. And finally, I may have brought the wrong lens, opting for a wide angle instead of a lens that could have focused and enlarged a small part of the sky.
It was still a rewarding morning. We listened to chicken drumming and turkey’s gobbling. Four large Swans flew low over our heads, Willow seemed fine, but I was touched. When the sun got close to rising the song birds started up.
Good reports of Northern Lights recently, unfortunately I have slept through the best storms.
Damn chilly in the morning. Last Saturday I shed the long underwear for the year and I’m tempted to put the long thermal underwear back on. Every year it goes on earlier and comes off later. Maybe there will come a time, despite global warming, they will stay on year round. Just for the record, it is not the same long underwear I wear for 7 months straight. I do change them every month or so, usually when my leg hair starts growing through them.
Willow and I went out early to catch the grouping of planets coming up in the east. We never saw Saturn, Mars or Venus. We were too early and cold. I pointed the camera down the lake southeast and took a few pictures. Willow sat beside the tripod. She whined a few times and I saw her shiver when I turned on my flashlight to check I was still focused on infinity.
A photograph is made of light. The camera records it without sentimentality or prejudice. The photographer adds that later, trying to show a story to the viewer. The viewer also adds their thoughts to the image. Sometimes the image touches and tells a different story to many different people. That’s called art. Sometimes a picture captures a time and place. That’s a document.
This photo is light only. The light of The Milky Way. The Dark Horse near the centre of the galaxy. The Scorpions Tail. The purple and green aurora signalling flares from the our sun. The lights of Windermere and Fairmont in the distance. The sun showing below the horizon, marking another day.
Some of the light has been here forever while other, even brighter light is recent.
The Northern Lights and stars reflect in the lake. Do the fish take direction from this light? Does it trigger when they spawn, when they go into the many creeks feeding the lake? There isn’t many native fish left in Lake Windermere.
By comparison humans have only had the ability to cast light, shading the skies, for a short time. To capture light even less.
I worry what happens to our souls when we can’t see Andromeda, Aurora and the The Milky Way. Like the fish we may forget our way.
I mentioned satellites in my last post with one 15 second exposure capturing five. This has become normal with more and more satellites being launched every month.
It used to be exciting to see a satellite when they were rare. Now it seems you can’t look up with out seeing them. I prefer my stars not moving or streaking in photographs.
The night sky is primal to humans, it is embedded in our DNA. We have lost our view of stars due to earth based light pollution, with many people around the globe never seeing The Milky Way. I can’t help but think we are now well on our way to polluting the sky from above.
Regardless of our advancements in space exploration, which are phenomenal, our lose of vision to the stars will have consequences for humankind. Maybe it already has.
On December 5th the clouds cleared. Lisa and I had our grandchildren, Scarlett and Cooper, over for supper. While we got a fire going, picking kindling and blocks of timber I pointed out Venus, Saturn and Jupiter in the brilliant sky.
Venus, the brightest, was about to go down, Saturn was hard to see in the twilight and Jupiter, the highest, ruled by its position high in the sky.
The next day we awoke to snow. The clouds took over the sky. Luckily, before the end of the day they lifted. Cooper and I were shovelling snow. I pointed out a young moon in the still daylight. Cooper acknowledged it said, “There’s Venus above.”
I had to squint to see it. Cooper has good young eyes. It made me proud he knew the name of that point of light.
Being a grandfather is nice. When I was a parent I tried my best but did a lot of things wrong. I worried all the time for one. Worked too long and thought being a good father was holding the line.
Now, I don’t worry. Kelsie and Tom are wonderful parents. I’m a kid again, but with the knowledge and eccentricities of an old man. I get to teach Cooper and Scarlett about the garden, the stars in the sky and what firewood burns best for Grandma. If that ain’t blessed I don’t know what is.