Monday, June 11, 2012

Life Without Light Clutter

When I talk to friends who love to live in cities, they often wonder what we do for fun in our rural setting.  Even my former students who live in a nearby small town frequently asked, “Don’t you get bored in the country?  All you have to do is watch grass grow.” Anyone who reads my essays knows I don’t get bored even though we don’t have any neon lights or busy city streets lined with businesses that cater to people who just want to have fun.

On that note, one of the advantages of living far, far from an urban area is the clarity of our night skies.  Without the reflection of city lights cluttering the inky background, stars, planets, meteor showers, and satellites pop and sparkle like expensive diamonds resting on black velvet in a fine jewelry store. 

Any clear night is a good evening to sky watch, but August with its Persiod meteors showers bombarding the wee hours’ dark canvas with scores of meteors per hours guarantees even the most lackluster skywatcher a chance to experience heavenly magic.  In November, folks get another chance to see a significant meteor shower when the Leonids show up in the southern sky.  Not nearly as many meteors as the Persiod showers arc through the darkness per hour, but the show is significant enough that it is worth rising early to watch.  The high point of the Leonid Meteor Shower occurred before dawn this morning.  If you missed it, set your clock so you rise before dawn tomorrow to catch its encore.

Even without meteor showers putting on a light show, ten or fifteen minutes standing on a dark hilltop  guarantees an unforgettable view of the moon.  I especially love watching communion wafer–like full moons rising in the east until they create light enough to cast odd shaped shadows about the yard and pastures.  Then my imagination takes off, and I know exactly how ancient people generated some of their stories of creatures that roam the night.

Under darker skies, it is fun to wait for a falling star so I can make a hasty wish before it vanishes or keep watch for orbiting satellites that follow a set path in their nightly orbits.  On rare occasion, we are lucky enough to see the Northern Lights dancing to a tune we don’t hear.

While some might consider us deprived because we live far from city lights, I don’t see it that way at all.  Without those lights, we have a view of the night heavens that few get to enjoy.


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