Returning to the mountain around two this morning, a black velvet studded with fusions diamond gems greeted my delight. The sky was clear and the air was still. Perfect for wandering through the cosmos and my imagination.
I am hoping to see some good meteors. The annual Leonids are good for a few nights either side of the 17th of November.
So there I am. Half inside a thermal sleeping bag. Lying back on a deck chair. A couple of thousand pounds worth of digital trickery beside me staring into the inky abyss and wandering the lanes between the stars.
Pointing my camera at Gemini first. My sisters birthsign so a good picture here might suit her for Christmas. A gorgeous red Mars hangs right in the middle, like an internally illuminated ruby tossed between the twins.
On to Cancer, and in my own faint constellation Praespe, a tiny little beehive of stars shines steady.
Then Leo. He strides the darkness over Garvie’s leap and the old church. I ought to return to this when there is some moonlight to illuminate the foreground. Perhaps in a couple of weeks. In the meantime Saturn decorates the lions belly like a little fleck of yellow butter.
I am reluctant to lose the warm cocoon that I am in but The odd wisp of cloud is about now. Already I have been an hour out and things are moving round. The meteors are eluding me as well. So I put away the toys and just take the chair and my Ajungilac a little way down the track to see what I can bag with the binoculars. Moving away from the house lets me look more to the north and west.
Even though I know the sky well it takes a little while to get my eye in. After a quick scoot through Orion it is on to Taurus where I tick the crab nebula in passing and wonder if leaving the camera at the house was a mistake. Still If I had tried for the crab I would feel I had to get the telescope out and then another hour would pass. Sometimes you have to just look and wonder.
Looking past the Pleiades, a gorgeous little cluster of sapphire stars I would like to find Aires and Triangulum this would give me a galaxy that borders on naked eye visibility but the pattern is hard to pick out for some reason. These are faint constellations and by now low in the sky so I have probably missed this tonight.
And then my eye is caught by something new, As I wander round the W in Cassiopeia a patch of light around a bright star doesn’t seem quite right. I think I know what it is but even so …Lets see. Cassiopeia, Perseus with its double cluster of stars grouped together but just beyond that. Using the binoculars I realise now what is wrong. I had spotted Comet 17P/Holmes a couple of weeks ago. It was flagged up on many astronomy sites and I even got a picture that I was pleased with, but this is much bigger. The corona now seems to be rivalling the size of the moon, nowhere near as bright of course but it is an amazing sight. Like someone had tossed a little bag of exploding flour around a star. Indeed I must check just which one the bright magnitude star next to it is. Beautiful. In fact it is so good that I should get my camera back out and try, the chance might not come again tomorrow night and in a few days the moon will wash some of it out.
Looking at the sky though, I can see that there is no time for this. Bugger. The cloud is now racing over from the west and there are only few minutes left before a veil is drawn across infinity. Just time in fact to look over my shoulder and admire Venus rising in the east.
And now it’s five in the morning. I have been out there for three hours. Time, I think, for a coffee and a few hours sleep. I imagine you all tucked up in those warm beds. Riding your night trains. Think then of me while I inhabit the parallel universe.
Free tours. Next one leaves just after dark.