Tuesday, July 14, 1998

The faint glow of infinity...

I stepped out in my backyard this evening, about 10:30. Along with me were my 10 year old daughter, Mimi, and our guest Claude Marcotte. As our eyes acclimated to the night, it became apparent to Claude that we have something very special here in my neck of the universe, a sky where the stars shine at night. Antares stood high in the south, Arcturus dropping to the west. The Big Dipper was heading to the northern horizon while Cygnus rode high overhead with little Delphinus striking enough in its distinctive shape to warrant my daughter recognizing its shape on her own, noticing the little constellation's with no prior teaching.

Mimi asked about Antares, saying the stars there reminded her of Orion. Of course she was thinking of Betelgeuse (sp?), while looking at the heart of the hunter's nemesis. I told her about the giant star, and that for its incredible size it was like a soap bubble, light enough to probably float on water. She asked for some Greek mythology, so I began the story of Corvus, Crater and the sea snake, Hydra, but she stopped me and told the story to me instead. It was wonderful.

To the east of Scorpius was Saggitarius, with Ophiuchus standing tall above both. M8 and M7 were easy naked eye objects. Out of the teapot's spout, the Milky Way was clear and unmistakable. I could trace it back through Scutum, Aquila, past little Delphinus, into Cygnus. The great rift was also easy, as was the other branch bending up toward Ophiuchus and Scorpius. I felt as though I was looking into the faint glow of infinity.

Just then, Claude pushed me around as both she and Mimi yelled. I saw the last few seconds of a brilliant fireball diving down into what must have been the last vestiges of Virgo, leaving a bright white trail and breaking up into bronze sparks.

What a great night of naked eye observing from my own backyard. If the sky tomorrow night at Montebello and Saturday at the Peak are anything like tonight's, we are in for a spectacular treat.

Good night all.