A Crystal Clear Evening

Journal entry for 2015/04/26
~9PM – ~10PM

It’s a very calm, cool, clear evening. I honestly can’t remember a more clear night here in Columbus. There are stars visible I didn’t know you could see from here given the light pollution and usually poor viewing conditions. These are the nights we astronomers live for; a quiet Sunday night, the rush of the day over with and all chores done… everything is right with the world. And now it’s just me and the Universe; infinity staring back at me, sharing the night with me and baring all.


Front row seat to the Universe

There’s Ursa Major – the Great Bear – on display high overhead with his tail pointing to red Arcturus rising in the east. Leo – the Lion – is perfectly oriented high in the south with the half Moon at his feet. Jupiter – the King of Planets – at Leo’s eye level. Jupiter’s moons are clearly visible through my binoculars. Super-bright Venus is dominating the west almost as bright as the half Moon, and Orion – the Hunter – setting just to the left (south) of her. Orion is just over the horizon making him look as grand as ever. The Great Orion Nebula is clearly visible through my binoculars as well; that cradle of baby stars. Sirius is shining bright nearby, low in the southwest. Arcturus is a deep red through binoculars, and Betelguese…

Oh Betelguese – the gigantic star of Orion’s shoulder – is just BLAZING red. You always forget how brilliantly ruby-red Betelguese is until you see it firsthand on a clear night. I wish someone else was here to see it so they’d understand how diverse and gorgeous the night sky is. The diversity is clandestine for sure, until you look just a bit deeper… then colors explode and the beauty is finally revealed.

It is a beautiful night, one I will not soon forget. I’m just going to take it all in for just a little bit longer…

Nights like this remind me why I do this. It feels like when I first started getting into astronomy and I had those epiphany moments; when everything was new and the sights drew “ooh’s” and “ahh’s.” Stars are pinpoint perfect and everything is so clear. I’m stumbling upon objects on accident and finding some awesome stuff! I saw a satellite pass right by Jupiter while I was checking out the Galilean moons. I found an open star cluster to the west (right) of Leo (gotta find out what that was). So pretty. Happening upon more red giants and just can’t get enough of their ruby brilliance.

Just sitting back in my adirondack chair with some binoculars and a dragons milk, bumming around the sky – just me and the sky. I live for moments like this… and I need more of them.

Binding glue drying of my sketchbook

I’ve been so caught up in astrophotography and equipment and getting good images and alignment and technical terms, on and on… that I sort-of forgot what I was actually taking pictures of. I’ve actually been thinking about this for a while – it’s the same idea I had with blog posts versus handwritten journals; one day, standards will change and I’ll lose all these online things I wrote. But my handwritten journals I’ve recently started keeping will theoretically live on much longer. I want to apply this to my observations as well.

I’ve been thinking about going ‘back to my roots’ and just doing some basic visual observations and sketching them in a sketchbook. I found a bunch of black construction paper sheets at home and ended up binding them (gluing them together) with a hard cardboard backing and made my own sketchbook. I have a white color pencil I’m going to use to sketch what I see through the eyepiece. I think this will have the same results and effects as my handwritten journal has had; i.e. slowing down and taking time to think about what is happening so I can actually appreciate it – plus, have a written, documented record that isn’t easily outdated.

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