Have you seen the stars?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by exwhyzee, Apr 5, 2011.

  1. exwhyzee

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    Years ago, I worked in an office in Canberra, Australia as part of an international exchange program with a governmental function. My office-mates numbered around eight, and as I was a young and curious American, they enjoyed taking turns showing me various facets of their country on weekends.

    One July weekend, my co-worker Pip invited me and another worker Katie to go with him to the town of Braidwood, about an hour's drive east of Canberra to inspect a rental property he had there. We drove the long trek across wide plains as Pip pointed out the subtle shades of green that characterized the landscape of the high tablelands, as he called them. We reached Braidwood around lunchtime, and found his rental house well outside the village in undeveloped woodland.

    Pip took us on a walkabout...pointing out features of the Aussie landscape such as square Wombat turds, termite mounds, tree ferns, kangaroos, and the laugh of the Kookaburra. I remember we followed a stream to the point that it fell over a very high waterfall from which we could look south over a huge pristine valley.

    With the sun setting we made fast tracks back to Pip's rental house, where we found the occupants gathering friends for a Saturday night dinner. They invited us to stay, which we did, well into the night.

    After dinner and tales of life in Braidwood, it was time to head back to Canberra. We all said our goodbyes and headed outside into the dark moonless night. Looking up as I lingered waiting for the others, for the first time in my life, I saw the stars.

    These were not just the primary stars that I grew up with above my home on the east coast of North America - where light pollution and a persistent haze obscures all but the strongest stars. Here in Braidwood, the clear and dark sky was filled with stars. Countless. Breathtaking. Astounding.

    I remember making an incredulous comment about the stars, and all of the Aussies around me took a moment to enjoy the night sky. They seemed pleased to show off their sky and appreciated the fact that not everyone, including me, were able to enjoy the full night sky that they did.

    That night was the only night in my life I that I saw the full night sky until last month, when I visited a very small town in South Africa that reminded me a great deal of Braidwood. Waiting till well after sunset and close to the end of a long drive back from visiting warm beaches on the Indian Ocean, my host pulled off the side of an isolated road so that I could see the stars again.

    They were ten times as amazing as I had remembered, made all the more exciting by wildfires ignited earlier in the evening by a thunderstorm along distant mountain ridge lines. I tried to take pictures but my camera couldn't capture the stars. I mapped out where the Milky Way was in relation to Orion, so that I could reconstruct the stars from home, but our night sky is too compromised by modern conveniences to reveal too much of itself.

    Have you ever seen the uncompromised night sky? When? Where?

    Sorry if this seems over-written. I'm reading Michener these days and he has that effect on me.
    :rolleyes:
     
  2. HiddenLacey

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    I'm about an hour from the city, so at night where I live the light pollution isn't quite as bad. I haven't been to the types of places you've described, but I do love lying back and watching the stars at night. You are very lucky to have visited places where you can have an unencumbered view of the sky. It's inspiring sometimes to look up and wonder what else is out there and how many places are there where another being could be doing the same exact thing in another gallaxy.

    Let me tell you about a magical place in our state that you might appreciate. French Broad and Cathedral Falls in Transylvania Country. The trails around that set of falls are covered in Fool's Gold. It's not just the trails though, it's everything, the grass and the leaves on the plants sparkle with a fine dusting of Fool's Gold. It looks like something out of a fairy tale because everything around you shines and glitters. I found it last year while waterfall searching and doing some hiking/ driving. No matter how many pictures I took, I couldn't capture the essence of the land around me. I don't think I've ever seen something so beautiful.
     
  3. ronin001

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    I hate to say it; but wheni am in the deep woods of North Carolina on A winter night I experienced my greatest visual enjoyment of the heavens. I remember once trying to contemplate my existence in the universe; and feeling very very small.

    Not wang small but existence small
     
  4. HiddenLacey

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    Carolina is a beautiful place. Upstate NY is nice as well especially around Lake Placid in the Adirondacks (hopefully I didn't butcher that.) The one place I want to see more than anywhere else is Alaska in the warmer months... when there's light of course:tongue: That's my goal place to see and take a million photos of.

    Sorry Exwhyzee I hijacked a little bit:redface:
     
  5. D_Kitten_Kaboodle

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    I remember when I was a little girl going to my grandparents house. My uncle lived with my grandparents and he took all the kids outside one night and we just all piled on top of the cars and looked at the night sky. I don't know if it was because I was so young or if back then pollution was not really as much of an issue as it is now.

    Now I've camped under the stars, and sat outside and watched the stars many times in my life, but that night as a child is the most memorable. The twinkling stars covered the night sky like a warm blanket. I was amazed, simply in awe, of what I was beholding. I've learned to appreciate the simple things in life, and sitting under teh stars is one of my favorite activities. (Well, it starts with sitting anyway....)
     
  6. JustAsking

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    Yes, this would be my example, too. I used to live in that area, in Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Wilmington, and north of Plattsburgh in a cabin on Lake Champlain. Its easy to get far enough away from those towns to where you will see absolutely no light pollution.

    And in the winter, the nights can be so cold and dry that you can hear twigs snapping in the woods from it. The sky is so full of stars that the milky way looks like fog.

    I did a stint as a TV broadcast engineer for the Plattsburgh TV station and spent many a night at the transmitter on top of a small mountain, called Terry Mountain, way out in the middle of nowhere at the foothills of the Adks. The nights were so clear sometimes that I could see lights way over in Burlington VT across Lake Champlain. The night sky was breathtaking from there.

    One night there was a huge display of Northern Lights that went from horizon to horizon. I will never forget that one either. I happened to see it because it had knocked out the entire AM broadcast band and it freaked me out being up there all by myself until it occured to me that there was an aurora going on. So I went outside and was knocked over by the amazing display.
     
  7. Enid

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    my favorite times to observe:

    on road trips to big bend park (texas) driving overnight. i swear you can hear the sound of the shooting stars! (i did once.)

    BBC News | Sci/Tech | Sound of shooting stars

    the colors are amazing too.
     
    #7 Enid, Apr 6, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2011
  8. maxcok

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    I love the 'great outdoors', and I'm never more at home or at peace when I'm in the wilderness far from 'civilization'. I'm drawn to natural landscapes in many forms and endless variety, but where I've felt my most profound connection to creation, my highest awareness and deepest peace, is in the desert. I've spent many a blissful day and night far from the sights and sounds of humanity, more often than not alone, wandering the mesas and badlands or holed up deep in some remote canyon.

    There's a stark beauty in that hostile unforgiving landscape not everyone can appreciate, but to me it is a temple. Nowhere else have I experienced such absolute silence, nowhere else have I felt so fully alive, nowhere else have I been so conscious or so acutely aware of the majesty of the universe and my place in it. Nowhere else but deep in the desert, with extreme low humidity and lack of water vapor, far from atmospheric pollution and light pollution, can one truly appreciate the spectacular sea of stars and galaxies that surrounds us.

    I remember clearly the first time I was in the desert during the dark of the moon, and discovering to my astonishment I could read a map from starlight alone. I remember laying flat on my back on a soft warm sand dune drinking in the spectacular glittering ocean of stars overhead. I recommend everyone put on your to-do list to spend at least one night deep in the desert on a moonless night and experience the cosmos primeval. (Just be sure you know what you're doing and pack plenty of water. The desert's not a place for greenhorns and sissies.)
     
    #8 maxcok, Apr 6, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2011
  9. vince

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    Yes I have seen the stars on moonless, clear nights many times in Canada. But the most memorable time was just outside Sonoma on our way back to Phoenix from the Grand Canyon. We had eaten in Sonoma and it was pitch black outside. After about a half hour of driving I needed to piss really badly so I got off the highway and drove a ways down a side road. I was doing my business and looked up and was totally astounded at the clarity and intensity of the stars. I almost fell over. Two of the girls in the van were really city kids and had never seen the stars like that before. It was so amazing to them, we couldn't get them back in the van for about half hour.
     
  10. august86

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    My bestfriend and I used to be scouts in junior school, which involved a few camps to surrounding areas. What an awesome time, not a streetlight in sight meant that one could just absorb the magnificence of the sky and stars.

    Also, because of my love for the outdoors, I joined the hiking club in high school. That gave me my fix of beautiful landscapes and the night sky at least twice a year, not to mention having a great time with school friends.

    Thankfully, I live in live in one of the less developed provinces of our country (hence the plethora of wildlife and gameparks, and the clean air), so great night skies are the norm, and many a time taken for granted.

    And, I live just a few kilometers away from the city, by the ocean, so when I want a quiet, clear view of the sky, I just take a night walk.
     
  11. luka82

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    There is a beautiful place in Serbia called Deliblatska Pešćara. In the not so distant past it was a desert. Now it`s a beautiful place where there is a lot of trees and wild animals. But it`s still very dry. The sky there is amazing! It`s not polutted, and you can see every star! Looking at the sky from that place always makes me wonder about the alians;)
     
    #11 luka82, Apr 6, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2011
  12. ronin001

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    I live in lower upstate NY, I may take your advice and take a road trip one day thnx
     
  13. Joll

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    Yeh, and it's awesome.

    There's some pretty uninhabited areas up the Conwy Valley from where I live, where the sky is unobscured. Some cool isolated hilltops too.

    Makes you feel small and awestruck - kinda comforting too, somehow.

    PS: I'm all in favour of banning amber lighting - it's soporific and obscures the sky more than white or cream lights seem to.
     
  14. exwhyzee

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    Very cool, I never heard of that!

    Great ideas you all have for places to go to see the night sky. In spite of past visits to places that probably would have had dark sky like Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah - for some reason I never think to drive out of town and look up when I'm in North America. Its always an exotic place like Africa or Australia. Maybe I will visit out west this summer and check out the viewing there. :wink:
     
  15. B_Hickboy

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    Yeah. I've had a few nights like that. On the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, and most spectacularly one late October night on Roan Mountain in Tennessee. It was stunning.
     
  16. kepper

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    One of the best places in the USA for night sky photography is Joshua Tree National Park, which is on a high plateau in California at the intersection of the Mojave and Sonara deserts. I go there several times a year for stargazing, and attached are a couple of shots from my last trip. In one of them you can see part of the Milky Way (which we don't see much of at our latitudes for most of the year) and the other contains some nebulas.

    Joshua Tree is in the wilderness, and the very dry, clear desert air makes it a good place for celestial viewing. It is so totally dark up there that you can't see anything, and there are numerous venomous snakes that get active at night in the late summer (when these shots were taken) as it cools down (to the 90's F!) Other than watching out for that, it is so much fun to see the universe.
     

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  17. exwhyzee

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    I grew up with a story called "The Unearthly Music of Roan Mountain"
     
  18. exwhyzee

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    Those pics are close to what I'm talkin' about...
     
  19. Brillig47

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    I live on the ocean's edge in Western Europe, and our sky is very clear, the air clean, and almost zero light pollution. There are nights when the Milky Way is so bright, you can see why the ancient Egyptians thought it was the Nile of the Underworld, a celestial river pouring across the heavens.
     
  20. jojolongdong

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    About 10yrs ago, I was in the Peloponnese (Greece) visiting a friend who has a house there.
    During the day other friends gathered for dinner and afterwards we all decided to go to a nearby bar.
    There were no street lights and I was concerned about snakes in the grass so was stamping my way towards the road when someone said "Look at the stars.!"

    I looked up and was so taken aback and filled with awe, my heart began to pound with fear and wonder. This may sound stupid but I looked away at first, fearing that I was about to have a heart attack. The awesome majesty of the whole Universe above our heads with The Milky Way clearly visible was profoundly moving and exciting. I have rarely seen such a clear view of the night sky, but the intensity of that occasion is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
     
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