Winter Stars

Starting from the top; Cassiopeia, Andromeda, The Andromeda Galaxy, Perseus and its two star clusters, also Pleiades, Taurus and Mars just coming over the mountain Ridge.

To look at the stars is to be amazed. In this day and age we know the science of astronomy. We know distances and the difference between planets and stars. You can steer a ship, plant a garden and set our calendar by them. If we have something in common with every generation going back to the beginning of man it is the stars. To look at the stars among the trees and mountains on a dark night, to feel those pin pricks of light flow through, as they have done and will continue, is to feel lucky.

Night Walk

Willow and I were up early for a walk under the stars. It has been clear for awhile, unfortunately we picked a morning that was cloudy with a few stars poking through here and there.

Using the lights of the Valley bottom to illuminate the trees. Pleiades and Mars can be seen above the trees in the centre.

Willow decided to drag her face through a patch of burrs and is now covered in them. She has been patient but not overly pleased with me picking them out.

An old shack nestled in the wetlands.

Satellites

Four satellites.

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.

Two satellites. The last of moonlight catches the top of a mountain.

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.

early rising

A Pine Grosbeak welcomes the waxing moon.

Willow and I were up early creek bound. Willow knows when I don’t have to work by the clothes I put on. She saw the woolen shirt and was excited. It was clear, with the the moon still up. There was no way she was being left at home.

A piece of toast and we were on our way. We were only a few miles away when I realized I forgot the camera battery, having put it on the charger earlier, an essential piece of equipment if your goal is to take pictures of the night sky. A quick trip back and we were back on track.

Creek bound. This is a single 15 second image capturing 4 or 5 satellites (the one closest to the mountain top could be a meteor. They streak due to their movement during the slow shutter speed. There is a lot of them orbiting the earth. It’s getting tough to get a photo without one being caught in the frame.

Once in the creek bottom we listened for whoots. The Great Horned Owl is the first to get frisky and roost. The creek was silent but for running water. No barks from Willow to let me know we had company. Even the moon choose to go down, darkening the skies, leaving us to our own devices.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been out charting the night sky. It changes every time I look at it. It’s important to become familiar with it again.

Dec. 6th

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.

Thanksgiving

The creek behind Swansea.

The backside of Swansea was wet this morning with snow falling at higher elevations.

It was a good weekend with our kids. Maddy, Hunter and Bree came in from Calgary. With Kelsie, Tom, Cooper and Scarlett, now living here, it made for a lively house. Hunter and Maddy even argued about which beds they were to sleep in.

Thanksgiving has always meant a lot to Lisa and I. Now even more so. It is a wonderful time of year and with the garden coming in there is always plenty to go around.

The road we can’t seem to tire of.

When I was younger we would hunt and fish on this weekend. My Dad and brother Ron would fish below Wilder’s Old Camp. They were good fishermen while I seemed to always be untangling some birds nest.

It has been a difficult time this past week, but with everyone around it has made it better.

We are having a turkey at Tom and Kelsie’s tonight. Our contribution will be a bottle of Chardonnay from Sonoma. . . and the carrots, potatoes, beets and turnip, but I don’t think Lisa and I can solely claim those as a donation, because Cooper and Scarlett helped me dig them.

Maddy and I. Photo by Kelsie.

Falling Star

This photo from the night of the Perseids shows Taurus, Pleiades and Perseus. It also has a few stars belonging to the bow of Orion. The summer stars are surrendering the sky to the winter cosmos.

The two faint ‘scratches’ in the sky are satellites. It is difficult to get photos of the night sky without satellites showing up somewhere in the frame. Very different from when I was a kid and I would search for them among the stars, squinting to detect movement. I have read, in the future the majority of ‘stars’ in the night sky will be in motion, making them not stars at all, but satellites.

The larger streak is a meteor. Although difficult to detect in this small version of the photo, green can be seen in the streak at the beginning and end. This colour is often detected as the small grain of metal, dust from a long ago comet enters our atmosphere and burns up. I always feel lucky to see this natural phenomenon.

Solar wind

Greens and purple auroras give way to approaching dawn.

Lisa called me to look at the Northern Lights at around midnight. They were spiking and visible from within town. Having been asleep for a couple hours I didn’t feel much like going out to take photos.

About 3 am I had a change of heart and Willow and I packed up the camera and headed for the dark part of Lake Windermere.

The Milky Way arches across the sky. The light of Invermere, BC can be seen to the left of the frame.

The auroras had died down yet were still visible in the northeast as a stream of solar wind hit Earth’s magnetic field.

Geese, ducks, coyotes and hooting owls provided a fitting soundtrack to the clear moonless morning. It felt good to be out looking up. Very fine start to the day.

palliser pass

Above the falls.

Lisa has encouraged me to look back at some of the photos taken in the past. I rarely do this, content with looking at what was taken most recently. She said sometimes I might miss a good one. These two were taken on a wonderful trip along Palliser Pass last summer.

Sun-up. Mt. King George, 3,413 m. Height of the Rockies.

Brrrrrr!

This photo composition is made of sixteen photos sewn together in Photoshop to achieve the extra wide angle needed to show the night sky from north to south. The original is a massive file and reveals many stars and constellations. Even in this small sample a discerning eye may be able to pick out Perseus and Cassiopeia to the left and the tail of Scorpius with red supergiant Antares over the lights of Fairmont Hot Springs in the south. Scorpius only rises once Orion is down and promises the coming of summer.

A few welcome days off in a row. Willow and I figured we would sample the chilly temperatures. We headed out at 3 in the morning to see if we could catch the return of The Milky Way.

The Milky Way rising over Nutmuq¢in (Chisel Peak).

So far we have had a mild winter and perhaps we have grown soft because -28°c felt colder than expected. Granted fumbling barehanded with a metal camera doesn’t help. Willow looked at me like I was crazy and was happy to make it back to the truck and a blasting heater.

The Milky Way was rising but the centre stays below the mountains before dawn washed the stars away. Still a wonderful viewing morning with the young moon long down refusing to interfere with the brilliance of stars.

The afternoon sun warming Jake and Dave.

That afternoon we met with good buddies Dave, Jake and Chewy for a bout of ice fishing. By then it had warmed to a much more comfortable -16°c. We picked a spot near the shallow south end of Lake Windermere, chosen for it’s distance from the ruck of the crowd. Unfortunately the fish didn’t feel the same, choosing instead to occupy the deeper portions nearer the outlet.

Willow looking for fish.

Still, it was refreshing enjoying the lake. Jake drilled his own hole in the almost 2 feet of thick ice. The dogs ran this way and that. Very fine day.

Willow criticizing my lack of fishing skill.