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.

memory walk

Brilliant Jupiter hangs in the west.

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.

Orion, Taurus, Pleiades, Mars and four satellites.

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.

It’s an easy walk under the stars.

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.

Venus & Crescent Moon

A thin crescent moon with faint earthshine. Venus shines in the dawn. The communication tower can be seen on top of the original Pinto mountain.

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.

Line Up

Haze in the east. The waning moon mid right. Lake Windermere the way it should be.

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.

Moon rise.

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.

A few Crocuses on the trail in daylight heading out.

meteor, snow, fox, shopping, driving

The Lyrids fly tonight, unfortunately it is socked in with clouds. The Lyrids Meteor Shower can be a good one. Although not known for large numbers, about 20 an hour, the meteors can be bright and stretch across the sky. I saw one a few years ago that lit up the trees around me, an amazing sight in the dark of night.

A quick trip into and back from the city today. The Trans Canada highway has been diverted through Kootenay National Park while work is being done on the #1 near Golden. Lisa counted 65 semi trucks going the opposite way between Radium and Castle Junction (approx. 100km). This was at 5:30 in the morning. On the way home at 7pm on the same stretch she counted 145.

We saw a lot of precipitation, snow, sleet, rain. When we arrived in Calgary the flakes were as big as silver dollars. I had to put the truck in 4 wheel just to get around the parking lots.

A remarkable site on the way in, near Hector’s Gorge, a Red Fox, beautiful in the morning light, a full tail as long as the rest of its body. Remarkable, because this area has never had foxes, however, sightings have started to become common. This is the first fox Lisa and I have seen. They will have to get along with the Coyotes and Wolves. From what I understand they won’t attack dogs so Willow won’t have to worry.

No trip to the big city is complete without a trip to Costco, or as I like to refer to it the 10th level of hell. Parking, crowds, gluttony, anger. My goal is to get in and out as fast as I can. Lisa gives me a list, she has her own, mine is garbage bags, fruit, parmesan cheese and toilet paper. I am in and out like a wedding dink, back in the truck trying to figure a way out of the parking lot.

Back home we noticed we did not get much moisture.

Everything is getting faster while we slow down. I demanded Lisa turn off Siri giving directions, because it was confusing me. That was a mistake and costed us some time.

Lisa ribbed me. Even asked if I wanted her to drive. Jesus!

light

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.

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.

warm spell

that damn moon

+ 5 all day. melt coming off the roof. clouds gathering on the shoulder of mountains. walking in puddles. still warm air. feeling good.

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.