Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Pursuant to the last post, Canopus' window of technical visibility has been creeping earlier and earlier. I chased it again today, setting out as the time crept towards midnight.

The skies were right, and as I walked down Almar towards West Cliff I knew that if I stayed up on the cliffs itself I'd be subject to light pollution from houses on three sides.

I knew a spot, however.

That's me on Christmas Eve of 2007, in a pair of shoes that have been worn out and tossed, a pair of jeans now raggedy, a bag lost in New Orleans in August of 2008, a shirt I don't even know what happened to, and a hat that soldiers on. My feet are in the same place I parked myself tonight, the sea-fig on either side blocking out the light to my sides, as I stared out at Orion and Canis Major and worked my way towards the horizon.

Binocular work is as physical as it is mental; once I'm situated, I'm not sure if the moves I make are grounded in a knowledge of the stars themselves or the knowledge of how far to increment my arms to get me to something I want to see.

The bright star at top left is Sirius; if you see the stars like I do, you can see a diamond shape with the "feet" of the constellation Sirius is in and a star in the constellation below it. In the "eastern" quadrant of the picture is Columba, the dove. See the descending line pointing down from the triangle of stars that forms the head, forming another kite-like shape? Follow that line, adjust a bit to the left...that's Canopus at the bottom. You can trace another line (not in green) back up to that diamond shape I mentioned.

No matter how clear it is, it's always foggy right off the horizon, just west of Carmel Point across the bay. Still, after a quarter hour, I could make out a bright star in the right spot, the same spot as last time. Second-brightest star in the sky, Sol aside. 22.5 miles farther south, and Canopus never breaks the horizon, and I get it twice in a month? I spotted it maybe a degree above the horizon, and, to add the cherry to my Christmas cake, I swear I caught an averted glimpse of it with the naked eye as I stowed my binoculars and headed up the stairs.

Merry Christmas to all.

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