Farmgal and I spend some evenings in the city. We visit friends, or see a show, or do some shopping. After the long drive on secondary highways and back roads, we get home and remember we didn’t turn any lights on before we left.
When we turn the car off, it is utterly dark.
We climb out of the car, stretching after the long ride, and look up to the skies. Untold numbers of stars stare back at us. The Milky Way crosses the sky overhead. We can’t help but stand there and stare for a bit before we head inside.
It’s a perk about living on the farm. With few neighbours and only a couple of villages in the area, there is very little light pollution here. As a bonus, we’re surrounded by a field in three directions, so we can see sky almost to the horizon. It makes for some excellent stargazing.
We’ve seen some neat sights. Every once in a while, the International Space Station passes overhead, a slow, bright light moving from west to east. There are meteor showers, of course; nothing like that one spectacular show we saw up north several years back, but nothing to sneeze at, either.
About four years back, during the winter, I was coming up from the barn and looked up into the winter sky to see what looked like a comet. Only I hadn’t heard about any bright comets in the sky, and it seemed kind of bright to have just suddenly made an appearance. So I looked at it for a bit, then went inside to tell Farmgal and make a few notes. She came out to have a look and it was fainter in appearance. After ten minutes, it was gone from sight. We signed up to a couple of discussion groups and found out the next day that we’d seen a USAF rocket venting unused fuel into space at the end of its flight. The fuel had appeared to be a green fan, but then dissipated away until it wasn’t visible.
One thing we don’t see so much now is the Northern Lights. It was an everyday occurrence during the winter nights up north; in December, they’d be out before I left work. Most times they were quite active, dancing all across the sky in lines and arches. Whereas we’d only seen white-green aurora in western Canada, we got to see pinks and reds at times in the north. Down here in eastern Canada, we’re lucky to see white-green bands on the northern horizon from time to time.
And we can’t forget the unique night time sights associated with May and June: The fireflies. It’s completely normal to have dozens of them around the house, emitting yellow-green bursts of light in all directions. First time I saw one, I thought I was watching a motorcycle coming along the road – until it jumped vertically into the air. They’re about done for this year, but they’ll be back next spring. A good part of our yard is left uncut and undisturbed in that timeframe specifically for their benefit so nobody is disappointed.
With all that, you’re probably thinking we should get a telescope. Well, I’ve got one, twenty years old, out in an outbuilding. I used it often as a teenager on the family acreage, dragged it along on our moves, and keep telling myself to get the thing fixed up and deployed. Maybe this summer I’ll finally do it, and we can spend a night counting craters on the moon.
How’s the view in your neck of the woods? Any cool stories to share?