Journal Archives

Lightning in a Bottle: A Chronicle of Wonder

Entries in Astronomy (2)


Summer: An Apology

I'm fond of saying that fall, when it comes, apologizes for the summers around here. 

This summer, which did not go gently—the temperatures topped 90 degrees for the 90th time today—was one of the hottest in recent memory. Autumn is always welcome; this year, it may be even more so.

As I write this, the vernal equinox is just over an hour away, but a sultry harvest moon, full and round and pale yellow-orange, has long since risen to usher in the season—with Jupiter, closer to Earth and brighter in our skies than it has been for quite some time, to escort her. What an auspicious beginning!

So. Here's to the crisp, clear skies and cool nights ahead.

Breathe in, and hold it.


Three Seasons in One Day

All dog walkers are astronomers at heart, I think—stargazers, at the very least. And, as someone who spends a fair amount of time under dark skies with a canine companion, I’m pretty well acquainted with the coming and going of the stars.

I’m happy to report that recently, as we slipped across the threshold of spring into perfect weather, the skies around here have been spectacular—clear, dark and dry, from dusk to dawn.

But about dawn: I’m no fan of Daylight Saving Time. Mother Nature grants us longer days perfectly well on her own schedule, thank you very much, and that sudden loss of an hour leaves me reeling for days. Even worse is to suddenly have to rise again each morning in the darkness that had been so reassuringly losing its grip to daylight.

So to start these days under a blanket of stars has been somewhat disorienting, especially when the constellations are as familiar as the faces of old friends. How strange to say good night as the landmarks of the winter sky—Orion, the Pleiades, Sirius—slip away to the western horizon, and to step outside into the twilight just hours later to find the stars of late summer—The Eagle, The Swan, The Lyre—already high overhead.

As I try to wrestle some larger meaning from that, all I’m left with are simple truths. The world keeps turning, and things are looking up. And that’s enough for me.


(The title “Three Seasons in One Day” is inspired by “Four Seasons in One Day,” a song by New Zealanders Neil and Tim Finn. It appears on the terrific album Woodface by Crowded House.)