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Welcome to "Under the Night Sky,"
the astrophotographs.com newsletter!

Please peruse below the semi-regular editions of astrophotographs.com's newsletter "Under the Night Sky." If you wish to receive this rambling exercise, click here and fill out the very minimalist form. Receive a free astrophotograph for your participation!

Archives:
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"

7th edition
12/10/02

A Celebration of the Attributes of Visual Observation
-- a Certain "Aspect of Divinity"

"I 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 motivates me.

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

Dark skies,

Willis

http://www.laposadadetaos.com/ is the web address of friends and La Posada de Taos bed and breakfast owners Alan and Sandy Theise -- highly recommended!

http://www.taos-cottonwood.com/ is the web address of new friends and Cottonwood Inn bed and breakfast owners Bill and Kit Owen -- also highly recommended!

http://www.astrophotographs.com/laposada.asp is the web address of the description of the visual astronomy program described in this newsletter.

http://www.timothyferris.com/ is the web site of articulate, award-winning author Timothy Ferris.


Click on this text or the "Something New Galaxy Icon" to the left to be transported to astrophotographs.com newest gallery of stunning Alaskan Aurora Borealis astrophotography -March, 2004.

 

Click on this text or the "Something New Galaxy Icon" to the left to be transported to astrophotographs.com gallery of stunning red Aurora Borealis astrophotography -- November, 2001.

 

Click on this text or the "Something New Galaxy Icon" to the left to be transported to astrophotographs.com gallery of Leonid meteor shower astrophotography -- November, 2001.

 

Click on this text or the "Something New Galaxy Icon" to the left to be transported to astrophotographs.com gallery of Total Solar Eclipse astrophotography observed from Zimbabwe in June, 2001.

 

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