Hey, Sky Fans!
How was your view yesterday? Around here, as the Sun made its way behind the hills across the river, I headed outside with my kids; a dinner picnic on the lawn. The first of the early-season fireflies fluttered and flickered around us. Among talk of the pros and cons of various types of ice pops and the politics of camp, a welcome break from the everyday humdrum, I snapped this photo of the young crescent Moon.
The skies were some of the clearest we’ve had around here in a long while. The early summer twilight was slow and drawn out and gave us time for an extra cookie or two.
About an hour later, one kid in bed, the other two of us stepped back out into the deeper dark, now closer to 9:00.
I braced the camera on my knee as we sat on the curb, so it’s a little blurry, and it’s at ISO 1600 so it’s a little noisy, but that blurriness helps bring out the stars a little. That’s Regulus, the little king, which is Leo‘s brightest, just above about the middle of the photo, and the off-brand Algieba, Leo’s third brightest, above it. It’s been a long time since I’ve been under anything but suburban skies, but I wonder if I’d be able to find these two among the rest if we were sitting under a truly dark sky.
Algieba, whose name comes from Arabic and means “forehead” forms the head of the lion. It’s a pretty great star. It’s a binary, a pair of giants orbiting each other, or really, a barycenter (a common center of gravity), about 130 light years away from the bats that were circling overhead. Some years ago, the bigger of Algieba’s pair was found to have a system of planets.
We sat and talked, and thought about how amazing it is that the light has traveled all that way, unblocked and unhindered, on a long straight line, just to get here, for better or for worse. The photons reaching her eye are different than the ones hitting mine, which are also different than the ones lighting up, just a little, the trees and the sidewalk around us. The Regulus, the Algieba, the Vega, the Altair, and the Moon, she sees are different than the ones you or I, or our caught-off-guard neighbor, who was walking by at that moment, at them sees.
Fleeting it was, just like summer itself. Who knows what it’ll be tonight*? Thanks for stopping by. Clear skies, everyone!
* A hint: the Moon and Regulus