delithopia

Notes from the Waxhaws

Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

Cycles

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These hot, humid days we’ve been having in the Carolinas belie the fact that the end of summer is approaching. I’ve finally made the connection in my mind…somewhat late in life, I’m afraid…that each year has its own sunrise (the vernal equinox)…its noon-day sun (summer solstice)…its midnight (winter solstice)…as well as its (now rapidly approaching) sunset, known as the autumnal equinox. My favorite time of year has always been Autumn.

My favorite part of the day is that somewhat magical time just after the sun has set below the horizon…when the illusion of bright blue sky slowly surrenders to the celestial wonders above. The gloaming. As a professed lover of the gloaming, it finally dawned on me why I like Autumn. Autumn…the gloaming…they are, in my mind, very much the same…the beginning-of-the-end of a cycle…the final approach to a period of rest…from which a new beginning emerges out of the darkness.

I felt the coming change in my bones this past week…when I noticed that the hummingbird feeder had hardly been touched since last weekend when I last filled it. The red nectar was still only about a half-inch from the top. During the summer, a weekly fill-up was needed to keep up with the insatiable appetites of the ruby-throated hummingbirds that had become daily visitors. It suddenly occurred to me that the tiny birds must have started their fall migration. I did some research…and sure enough…found out that come late August-early September, the hummers begin their long flights…lasting hundreds, and even thousands of miles to the south. I imagined these very small (weighing in at a tenth-of-an-ounce or so), indefatigable birds …single-mindedly winging their way…seemingly against all odds… to exotic wintering grounds in the Argentine. Leaving me behind…in the darkness…until the sunrise of next year.

Written by Jim

September 7, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Man in the moon

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“When the night is cold and you can’t find anything

(There’s nothing there to be found)

And your will to survive’s at an all time low

(Moon is shining)

The spirit will fly and return with a new found energy

(Keep your heart like a swan)

So keep it within, delight as your garden grows”

The nights are certainly getting longer this time of year. When I took Belle for her walk this morning…I was taken aback by the beauty of the sky. Above…the stars of Orion softly twinkling behind a sheer veil of high, wispy cirrus clouds. And to the west…a bank of low cumulus clouds set aglow from behind with moonlight. Suddenly…a clearing just slightly larger than, and centered on, the lunar orb…nearly full in phase. The sky within this portal…surrounding the moon… a delicate, bluish hue. I had to smile at this unexpected beauty…on this dark, early autumn Carolina morning.

“And the man up in the moon is shining

good fortune down on me

And the man up in the moon is shining

Sweet love, sweet love.”

This song…hard to believe nearly twenty years old…notable for its analog synthesizer accompaniment.

“Do be kind and civilized

and don’t descend into the dark abyss.”

~ Erasure, from Man in the Moon

Written by Jim

October 18, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Gliding through the gray

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The rains have come and

all is green and misty gray.

Content to spend this day indoors,

pretending that I’m gliding through

the cold ethereal silence of space.

Flipboard at my fingertips,

thumbing through my virtual copy

of Garden & Gun (the Soul of the South),

while listening to ambient music

from the outpost on Bluemars.

(Thank goodness for sub-space data transmissions!)

Written by Jim

April 28, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Home planet

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A simply wonderful video…in the truest sense of the word…by Bruce W. Berry Jr, from images taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The ethereal aurora…evanescent storms…and the dizzying starscape reeling about the Earth are awesome.

Time-Lapse | Earth from Bruce W. Berry Jr on Vimeo.

Written by Jim

April 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm

The light of heaven

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…and I thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it answered generally thus: ‘It is all that is made.’

~ Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

This night is so clear…and so still. The atmosphere above seems completely transparent. Directly overhead, faraway Jupiter stands out brilliantly amongst a field of even more distant stars. And yet…the light that is reflecting from that large planet is from the same sun whose warmth I felt on my face earlier this afternoon. And there…in the left shoulder of Orion, the red supergiant called Betelgeuse. The red light of that star, that is entering my eyes on this chilly night, radiated from Betelgeuse in about the year 1373…the year in which Julian of Norwich received her Revelations.

And then…Barred Owl cries out from the dark silence of the woods…the word I had in my mind as I gazed at the light of heaven.

Written by Jim

February 6, 2013 at 8:31 pm

One wintry morning

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The Big Dipper is high in the early morning sky…black and very cold. Merak and Dubhe pointing to the North Star. A reminder that the Winter Solstice is very near. Graced by the brief appearance of a shooting star…flashing across the heavens on this wintry morning. That such a heavenly visitation occurs in total silence…is simply awesome.

Written by Jim

December 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm

First light

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I look outside the window on this chilly morning…frost clinging to every blade of grass…the russet tones of a world slowly winding down…a world in decline. With a  log burning in the fireplace…in this quiet house, I’m reminded that we all began this journey together. John O’Donohue, in Four Elements, writes about the very beginning of the universe…the very first moments of the Big Bang…of a ‘terrifying beauty’ emerging from that tiny, primal space.

And yet there was a moment when the whole cosmos was infinitely compressed and tiny. It is hard to imagine that a cosmos that now extends into infinity was once so tiny. Imagine the infinity of possibility that was compressed within that tiny space. This primal explosion must have had endless passion.

All that I see on this morning…the trees limned with the day’s first sunlight against a pale blue sky…the now withering geranium on the porch, still with a few fragile, pink blossoms in spite of the killing frost. And the fire in the hearth…but a faint echo of that first moment billions of years in the distant past. We all began this journey together…in a single, tiny point of light that held within itself all the potential and possibility of this present moment. What lays before our eyes is indeed, a terrifying beauty.

Written by Jim

November 17, 2012 at 7:58 am