Photography ... astronomy ... art ... design ... technology
(... and the odd rant)

All of these make my world go 'round, to some extent, and they will all be found here at some time or other. Some of the photography can be purchased from my Redbubble site. I can also be found at Tempus Fugit (no longer being updated).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Twinkle, twinkle

Sitting in the car tonight, waiting for my daughter, I opened the window and looked skyward. A beautiful night, warm, with as many stars as one would expect, this close to a sizeable regional town, and a crescent moon high in the west. A typical scene, yes? Well, it is here, Down Under (notwithstanding the wet season's first substantial cloud-bounty). However, I was taken back to my first experience of Australian skies, after first arriving here from Scotland 20 years ago. I was captivated. Not surprising, giving that I'd left a freezing northern land in January, complete with snow-turned-to-ice on the ground, and embarked on a delightful sojourn (it was supposed to be work, but was too much fun for that to be relevant) to the sub-tropical antipodes.

From 0° C to 40° C in the space of about 5 days, was quite a change. Temperature is just physics though; it required some adjustment, but it was what it was: hotter than I'd ever imagined. The sky however, was something else. Seeing Sirius nearly overhead, its brightness undimmed by the low altitude of a Scottish viewpoint, was the first thing of note. The second remarkable thing was that this scene was to be observed night after night - such that, after 2 months of unremitting sunshine and blue Rayleigh scattering, I was delighted to see a cloudy sky for a change. Anyone accustomed only to the perpetually grey skies of Britain would probably find that hard to imagine...

Back to tonight: it's easy to become blasé about the beauty of the sky, when it's always there, being ... beautiful. And even as an amateur astronomer of some 35-40 years, I am as affected by that as anyone else, and need to take a longer second look sometimes. Having said all that, what appeals so much about the night sky here - at least, between spring and autumn - is the fact that the whole experience is so damed comfortable. I don't have to put on 3 inches of insulation, before heading out to discover that it has now clouded over. There is such a sense of blissful relaxation to be had, looking at distant beacons gliding ever so slowly overhead, while crickets, cicadas etc sing their song.

I have to admit though: I'd exchange a few of these balmy, almost unchanging nights for a few displays of aurora under a crisp heaven with fiercely-twinkling stars. Of all the sights in nature, there can be few as awesome as the northern (or southern) lights. With that thought, here's a pic taken some years ago: a green rayed band over the orange glow of Edinburgh. It's a sight I will never tire of.

Image copyright © Duncan Waldron, 1992. All rights reserved.

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