As you know, my attention is usually "down to Earth," on this mundane plane where there is more than enough to inspire and excite me. But we needed new binocs, and The Husband brought some home over the holidays, along with an inspiring book on the stars.
I've always enjoyed my few familiar constellations and watching the Moon go through its paces. I've learned to clock the seasons, making sure I check out Orion every winter and Scorpius in summer. Last year, I was surprised to observe a new, very bright, star hovering just above red Antares. It could be a stationary satellite, I thought, "polluting" my night skies, but I'm still not sure even of that.
[I must have skipped over the "planets" chapter. Now we know that we were watching Jupiter all summer, not some satellite. I'll be more enlightened about planetary positions this year!]
But my star-gazing had limits, so it was with surprise that I found myself reading the book (How to Identify: Night Sky), cover to cover. It may be because I do like learning the names of things in nature, and the night sky holds many names. Some were old friends, familiar from a childhood spent reading science fiction, but many were new. My indoor study, however thorough, evaporated in the face of outdoor reality. It will be a long time before very many of the new names sink into my bank of longer term knowledge.
The new binocs are fine for birds, but without a tripod, the stars were only jiggly swirls of colored light. Shivering didn't help. I will probably never be able to post night sky pictures here, so let me introduce you to someone who is better at it:
Spotlight: Visit Matt, at Sitkanature.org, as "an aspiring naturalist learns his place." He is managing to combine an earthbound perspective with one more ethereal in his photos Sunday and today, both not to be missed. Beyond his incredible blog from Alaska, he's also undertaken a huge effort to catalog 1,000 species from his chosen habitat.
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