Night Sky

I’m not saying the Stonington is out in the boondocks, but it’s really not close to any big city.  The village itself hugs the coastline, and the views from most places look out over the bay, granite outcroppings, and apparently primeval forest.

So, that means there’s not a Target or Home Depot only a few minutes away, which I guess is an inconvenience of sorts.  But is also means that there isn’t a lot of light at night — which means you can get a new, different perspective on the night sky.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the nights when it is clear, I’ve been enjoying sitting outside, staring slack-jawed at the night sky of Stonington.  It’s different from the night sky of Columbus.  Where the night sky in Columbus is a kind of dark gray color, due to the many bright lights on the horizon from downtown buildings and surrounding houses, the color of the night sky in Stonington is deepest ebony — like a shroud of black velvet.  In Columbus, you see a few constellations, like Orion and the Big Dipper, but most of the stars simply aren’t visible due to the light pollution.  In Stonington, where there really isn’t any appreciable light pollution, the stars blaze with a brilliant white color, as if someone is standing with a flashlight behind that black velvet shroud, shining the light directly through pinpricks in the fabric.  Even dimmer stars stand out in sharp relief, and I’ve seen constellations that I haven’t seen since I was up in northern Canada years ago.  I have no idea how many individual stars are visible from our deck, but it’s got to be thousands, if not tens of thousands.  And the blackness feels empty, and limitless.

And the Stonington night sky gives you a fresh appreciation for how the Milky Way got its name, too.  The spread of stars along the band of the Milky Way does look like a river of spilled milk.  Even if you can’t make out individual stars or galaxies, the Milky Way is noticeably lighter than the surrounding, deep-black space.  Looking at the brilliance of the Milky Way, it’s easy to conceptualize our little planet as just one rock at the rim of a great galaxy.

When you gaze at the Stonington night sky, you quickly understand why our human ancestors going back to caveman days were fascinated by the night sky, and the stars.  I may need to get a telescope.

On The Patio, In The Quiet Darkness

Richard is home for a very welcome visit, and after a nice dinner we spent the first night on our backyard patio, catching up.

What a pleasant time it was!  Sitting outside on a warm, quiet summer evening, talking and sipping on cold beer and puffing on cigars as fragrant smoke rises into the air.  Penny and Kasey lolling in the yard, sprawled on the cool lawn and nosing through the grass.  Dogs barking in the suburban distance and fireflies flickering in the gathering dusk.  The Who, then Marvin Gaye, then Lynyrd Skynyrd playing on the iPod speaker system.  And far above the trees and bushes framing the back yard, the sky grows progressively darker until the Milky Way is distinctly visible directly overhead and it is time to call it a night.

This is why Americans want to own their own home.  It is very special to have a place you and your family can truly call your own.

The Coming Big Bang

The universe began with the Big Bang billions of years ago, and now astronomers say we’ll be dealing with another big bang — in about four billion years or so.

The coming big bang will occur when our galaxy, the Milky Way, collides with and merges into Andromeda, a neighboring galaxy.  The two galaxies are being pulled together by their mutual gravities, and in fact are rushing toward each other at the breathtaking speed of 250,000 miles per hour.  At such astronomical (pun intended) speeds, it’s hard to believe that all Earth-dwellers aren’t experiencing a touch of cosmic motion sickness.

Of course, galaxies are mostly empty space, so whoever is left on Earth when the galactic convergence occurs isn’t likely to see suns and planets smashing into each other.  But the night sky will look different.  Orion and Taurus and Ursa Major will have lots of company.