Friday, March 25, 2011

Up before the birds

kw: observations, astronomy

I went out at 5:00 AM to get the paper. It must have arrived after my neighbor left, because he usually leaves our paper at our doorstep. On days he hasn't done it, I deliver his, for the benefit of his widowed mother, and also the one next door where another widow lives.

After two days of gentle rain—though there was some thunder late on Wednesday—the sky was clear and the morning air was crisp, probably just below freezing. The birds were not awake yet; dawn chorus begins at 5:30 this time of year. I simply stood still to enjoy the quiet and take in the sky.

Sad to say, being in the exurbs means there is too much background light for much of the sky to show. The third-quarter moon was a lovely sight, low in the south, and I could easily see the big dipper high in the north, but the rest of the sky was scattered first- and second-magnitude stars. You need to see third-magnitude stars to pick out most of the constellations. Seeing the Milky Way was out of the question, even though it was very close to right overhead. Standing at the end of my driveway, I could see seven porch lights and four street lights. Though the latter were recently changed out for sodium lamps, they are still very bright. Several houses also have those little luminarias in each window. Once a Christmas season affectation, they have become a year-round thing for some folks.

Still, it was nice to be out for a few minutes and to see the sky. I only had those few minutes, because I need to get to work early today. Otherwise, I'd bundle up better and watch sunrise.

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