Saturday, October 23, 2010

A ONE IN A MILLION SKY


Light Years Away
Sunsplash photo jolted me back to Earth.  I was light years away and standing in front of the Buhl Planetarium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with Mom and Dad.  Looking up, I read, carved into ochre stone:  "There is one Glory of the Sun, and Another Glory of the Moon, and another Glory of the Stars, and One Star Differeth from another Star in Glory." I shivered.

Entering the dark mysterious velvet of the star show, I sat transfixed as the movable Zeiss projector machine ground upward into position, rising like a giant black ant.  A soft-voiced narrator rewound the sky into Biblical times:  The Star of Bethlehem.  Some images I recognized, Orion the Hunter and his dog (especially his dog).  I always pictured Canis Major with his dog star collar, Sirius, as a giant white wolf with dark haunting eyes.  In my imagination, the celestial wolf smiled.

Cosmic Colors
Coming into the present, my son, Rob, had seen a bright object flashing pulsing colors in the SE sky in the pre-dawn before first light and pondered what it was.  We went out together to view it in early autumn.  "Oh!  It's Sirius, the Dog Star rising, just above the horizon!"  Separate bands of ice blue, ice green, white, cobalt blue, and bright red circled outward like a lighthouse beacon beaming.

How wonderful to see Sirius this way.  We stood silently, no telescope nor binoculars.  Staring at the star, it seemed to sway slightly back and forth, like a hanging lantern on a ship at sea.  I knew the star itself was not moving, but I felt like I was on a boat, swaying a bit. 

I told Rob about seeing Venus and Arcturus set one night.  As they neared the horizon, they pulsated with color bands, visible to my naked eye.  Venus flashed horizontal bands of yellow, green, and red while Arcturus displayed vertical bands of orange, green, and red.  My husband confirmed these bands with binoculars as we viewed together.

A friend, Susanne, saw color bands in Pluto of orange, yellow, and white while viewing through a telescope in Mexico.  Spectroscopy is fascinating to view in the heavens at night or in the sun shower prism of a rainbow.  Susanne continued to note,  "One night The Big Dipper looked so close, so three dimensional...like you could reach out and touch it!"

One early morning on the beach all was velvet dark.  The sky was sprinkled with diamond stars.  Rob spoke, "I watched Jupiter set into the lake,  It looked like a yellow lantern.  Another morning, I watched the moon set.  The lake swallowed the full moon, but after it vanished, moon light still flickered in the lake.  It was bizarre!" 

I can't believe my eyes, or can I?

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/  interactive star charts, This Week in the Night Sky and more

Photo by Rob,  Sunsplash:  North of Big Sur, Los Padres Mountains, CA