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Anatomy of an Eclipse Trip – DAY FOUR

Yesterday afternoon we loaded and secured our gear into Yurt 4 as a tremendous storm approached our position. The picture of the storm would’ve been perfect with a few lightning strikes below, but apparently that wasn’t Mother Nature’s plan even though we heard the roar of thunder echo constantly across the valley. Today when we arrived it was a completely different story. The sky was beautifully clear and as Gary and I set up our telescopes we practiced on the Sun. We’re ready. Is Mother Nature?

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Anatomy of an Eclipse Trip – Day One

Two minutes and 15 seconds. A lot of conversation and planning for years has been spent preparing for those few fleeting moments. It’s called the Great American Eclipse, the first total eclipse to fall across the continental United States since 1979 when the path skirted a few northwestern states. It is the first total solar eclipse to go from sea to shining sea across our country since 1918. Due to its accessibility it is being touted as being the most watched eclipse in the history of the world.

Moon stuff…

A silver metallic Moon has shown up at my bedroom’s window.

Its hidden through a veil of grey thin clouds, which seem to be pressing against the jagged mountain line in straight horizontal banding. She, who used to be a huge and round disk of bright light, is now smudged in all directions, with charcoal of darkness.

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The sky of June – The Rising of the Galaxy

Out I went and nothing prepared me for what I saw that night. On the pitch dark sky of Wairarapa, with luscious hills that hold the horizon in sweet curves that rest the eye, a luminous whirlpool of stars was erupting from the east. Silver river of stars, one of its arms was meandering the eastern horizon in oval arched loops like an octopus’s arm that passed a Southern Cross marking the 12 o’clock position on the celestial time keeper of the south. The galactic arm was thinning down towards the western horizon and righteously so as the further we go from Scorpius and Sagittarius, we are actually looking towards the outskirts of our galaxy, where fewer stars venture. I stood there in silence watching the slow rising of the Galaxy and I realised that it was for the first time in my life when I was truly seeing it with my eyes.

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The sky of March – The Shining Ones

At the fringe of our milky city of stars, on the north-western horizon, the Pleiades, the Shining Ones (Te Tawhiti) are preparing for the journey to the underworld. They are to disappear shortly behind the Sun and will stay there for a while.

And the explanation goes that since people of old did not really have an explanation about space, in trying to figure out where exactly the Pleiades went, they invented a underworld. This is probably one of the reasons why this group of stars is so linked to stories of death, rebirth, and ancestors, and used to mark the beginning of the year in some cultures.

Me being me... I'm feeling rather energised, even if this is a loooong drive, because driving always makes me feel fluid and relaxed. And now I’m just melting into the black asphalt and into the darkness of the night at [...] kms/hour with zero stars above, less distracting anyway (if ya know what I mean...) and I’m haunted no more by thoughts, I’m a fugitive - running from civilisation.

Cloudy Nights

Mention the words “cloudy night” to a star gazer, and they’ll mumble and grumble and say something like “Might as well get some sleep.” Of course in the southern hemisphere this takes on a whole different meaning. Cloudy night in this treasure trove of heavenly delights refers to an evening exploring our companion galaxies, the large and small Magellanic Clouds. And for northern star gazers this is very high (if not number 1) on the must see list. How amazing it must be to see another galaxy so large that you could fit 20 full moons across its diameter. That’s the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), and for the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) we’re looking at about 9 full moons. Let’s spend a moment exploring these clouds.