Pursuing Comet Neowise

It takes a lot to get me up at 4 am.

I’m obsessed with all things astronomical, so when I heard that Comet Neowise was passing by, and wouldn’t visit us again until the year 8786, I figured I better make an effort to see it. Even if I somehow achieve immortality, I’m sure that by 8786 my eyesight would be pretty much toast. Or, worse yet, I’d forget having seen it immediately afterward. That, and I’m not very good at delaying gratification.

So, several days this month, when there were no clouds in the sky, I’ve set my alarm for 4 in the morning. That should be an indicator of my dedication. The first time, I thought for sure I was seeing it. But it turned out to be Venus. Pretty, yes, but not quite what I had in mind.

On my last attempt (as of this writing) I managed to find it, but it looked like a faint smudge. But that could have been because I had to keep wiping the sleep from my eyes. I tend to lack focus at that hour. It’s part of my charm.

After all that sleep deprivation, I was equal parts delighted and irritated to discover that for the rest of this month, it should be visible in the Northwest sky, below the big dipper, an hour or so after sunset here in the US. Check out this article for details.

Incidentally, Neowise is a cool name. It was so named because it was NASA’s Neowise spacecraft that first discovered it. Funny to think that that craft will seem extremely quaint by the time the comet visits us again. I wonder if Earth will be just a sun blasted, dusty rock by then. Neowise only knows.

For a spectacular picture of Neowise taken with Seattle in the foreground, check out this link. And if you want to see a closer image, over Death Valley, check out this link. Both require a Facebook account. Also, the photo you see below was taken by my friend Mike Wainwright.

Keep reaching for the stars…

Neowise by Mike Wainwright
Neowise by Mike Wainwright

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Syzygy

So today is the big day. The Solar Eclipse. Personally I can’t wait. Even though I’ll only be seeing 93 percent of it here in Seattle, it will still be exciting. I’ve got my certified viewing glasses at the ready. (Incidentally, what does it say about your level of greed and your total lack of moral compass if you’re willing to make fake glasses that will potentially blind people, just to make a buck? Please be careful, everyone.)

So we will all be experiencing a moment of syzygy. (Now, doesn’t that sound sexy as hell?) A friend of mine (waving at Mor) taught me that word, and it’s now one of my favorite sounding words, right up there with ensorceled.

According to Merriam-Webster’s podcast about this word, syzygy means the nearly straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies (such as the sun, moon, and earth during a solar or lunar eclipse) in a gravitational system. We’re also told in fascinating detail that the word is related to the zygomatic bone, or cheek bone, and also (much less obviously) to the word “yoke”.

I don’t know about you, but as I gaze up at the eclipse with my legitimate glasses, I plan to touch my cheek bone and harness myself to my dog (closest thing I have to a yoke). I’ll do this just so I can experience the ultimate syzygy. (It was either that or sacrifice a virgin, but that’s soooooo 1724.)

One does not get the opportunity to be plunged into darkness at mid morning very often, so one should take full advantage of it! Have fun!

eclipse

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Maybe If…

So I decided to go camping in British Columbia during the Perseids meteor showers. I love astronomical events of all kinds, but the Persaids is one of my favorites. And it was supposed to be particularly spectacular this time around.

I had been planning this trip for nearly a year. I had no idea that half the province would be on fire. Fortunately, the worst of it was far from our campsites, but the smoke… that was everywhere. I could tell we were driving through some spectacular views… but it was like I was looking at them through a shower curtain covered with lime deposits. Oh well. My imagination is nothing if not fertile.

Needless to say, though, this was cause for concern in terms of meteor viewing. Would we even be able to see the stars? I was having a hard time hiding my dismay from my camping buddy. He seemed unconcerned. When I asked him about it, he said, “You don’t have to experience everything, you know.”

Wow. I love it when a new perspective leaves me speechless. I sat there for a long time, thinking about that. I wish someone had said this to me years ago. Because it occurs to me that I spend quite a bit of energy trying to soak up experiences like a sponge. When I travel, especially, I try to do everything there is to do, because I might not pass this way again. Maybe if I push through this bit of exhaustion I can squeeze in one more thing. Maybe if I keep looking up, I’ll see those meteors. Must. Look. Up. This hypervigilance means that I have very few regrets, but it also means I experience more than my fair share of stress.

Martin has a point. What happens if I miss the meteor showers? Will I die? No. Still, I did spend quite a lot of time staring skyward that night and the two nights to follow. Turns out I could see the stars after all. And I think, but am not sure, that I saw some shooting stars out of the corner of my eye. I wasn’t sure enough to wake Martin up, though. So he slept on, peacefully, while I monitored the heavens for some spectacular sign.

And that pretty much says it all.

Image result for perseids

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