"Under the Night Sky,"
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January 15, 2000
April 15, 2000
October 7, 2000
December 17, 2000
May 6, 2001 and June 3, 2001
November 3, 2001
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Willis Greiner's astrophotographs.com
"Under the Night Sky"
Celebration of the Attributes of Visual Observation
-- a Certain "Aspect of Divinity"
thought the night
Was basically just black-and-white
And a good time to be asleep.
I never knew
That stars come in colors
Red and yellow and blue."
-- K. Rothmaler, 1997
I have never met a person
who, upon even an informal or casual visual examination of the night
sky, was not profoundly and positively affected. And this year,
perhaps beginning with the tragedy of 09/11/2001, that very examination
is what I have also been most engaged in.
During the time of the
tragedy friends of mine and I were floating down the wild and venerable
Salmon River in remote central Idaho. I commonly take one of those
electronic auto-everything 3-inch telescopes (packed carefully in
a completely watertight case, of course -- my whitewater skills
can be suspect!) with me; last year and our most recent trip, more
recently concluded, were no exceptions.
Last year, on the evening
of 9/11, all of us huddled around the telescope and somberly looked
out to the gaseous nebulae of Sagittarius. I explained that these
were areas of star birth and formation -- and I would like to think
that this knowledge helped to comfort us. These types of revelations
always make me feel at once so much less significant as an individual
and yet more in concert with the collective cosmos.
This year the trip's
mood was much more upbeat, and we were fortunate to be met with
warm and sunny weather -- rare for early fall in the cool and wet
river canyons of the Northwest. Due to this blessing, we therefore
were compelled to sleep out under the stars every evening but one.
And, of course, I brought out that little 'scope and we all enjoyed
some of the deep sky objects (really mostly "hazy blobs"
with this equipment) so prevalent in the late-summer sky. Remarkably,
everyone seemed to enjoy my star "raves" and actually
petitioned me to bring out the telescope more often.
I love doing this. I
love the privilege of sharing whatever small knowledge I may possess
with others. And I again truly enjoyed the yearly pilgrimage my
wife and I make to Taos, New Mexico -- again to share visual and
telescopic astronomical sights, this time hosted by several bed
and breakfasts in the area. (For more on this program, please refer
to an older astrophotographs.com newsletter, as linked here.) This
year we started with the constellations, moved on to stars and clusters,
and ending with galaxies. And I always so enjoy describing that
when we are looking at the galaxies we are actually looking "back
in time." Detailing, if the galaxy is perhaps 10 million light
years from earth (actually, rather close in galactic terms), then,
in fact, we are looking at light that emanated from that galaxy
10 million years ago. In other words, 10 million year-old light.
And, when I conclude the program with this revelation, so many of
the fellow observers just look up, into that beautiful black night
sky, often with a newfound feeling of awe and respect. And that
is why I do these programs -- that response and perhaps a new understanding
and reverence for the night sky from the novice stargazers is what
This year (and I'm so
sorry of the irresponsible lack of timeliness on this newsletter)
there have been personal issues, I'm sure for all of us. But it
seems that every time such situations present themselves to me,
I find peace and solace, power and inspiration, strength and compassion,
confidence and joy -- all in the night sky. Even though my web site
is entitled "Astrophotographs.com -- the Astrophotography Home
Page," it really is the visual rendition of the night sky that
inspires me. I would suggest that is the case with other amateur
astronomers as well.
I still intimately remember
the darkest, most profound night skies I've ever witnessed -- whether
it be the skies viewed while sleeping out under the dark skies of
Idaho's river wilderness, the inky-black skies of Craters of the
Moon National Monument or Guadeloupe National Park, or perhaps darkest
and most beautiful of all -- the fabulous, totally non-light-polluted
skies of southern Africa, as seen from Chimwara Camp near the great
Hwange National Park. I now realize that all of these exotic world-circling
trips I've been taking have one common thread -- the cosmos. As
it turns out, the sky, and especially the night sky for me, has
a moving, important and completely necessary effect on me.
And so, as author Timothy
Ferris (he's touring right now -- go see him!) so poetically describes
throughout his latest tome (Seeing in the Dark), I join with
him and implore you to go outside and look up. Go ahead and spread
out your sleeping bag -- lay back and enjoy the beautiful night
sky. If we all did, my guess is that we'd be much more prepared
to face our personal and collective demons. I know that's been the
case with me.
"And you might stay up all night just on the chance
the slim chance, you'll see the northern lights,
but be content with the stars because that
is what the skies are offering tonight."
-- K. Rothmaler, 2001
is the web address of friends and La Posada de Taos bed and breakfast
owners Alan and Sandy Theise -- highly recommended!
is the web address of new friends and Cottonwood Inn bed and breakfast
owners Bill and Kit Owen -- also highly recommended!
is the web address of the description of the visual astronomy program
described in this newsletter.
is the web site of articulate, award-winning author Timothy Ferris.
Please call 303.838.2459 to place your order.
All images and
narratives copyright Willis Greiner, all rights reserved.
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