Throwback Thursday from May 2016 – “A Starlit Night”
The last few nights have been overcast here in Glencolumbcille in County Donegal, but not tonight. Tonight the clouds have melted away and we have our eyes looking upward, taking in the blanket of stars.
Jupiter is large and bright, and untwinkling. It stands out like a lantern among the shimmering stars around it. The Big Dipper points the way to Polaris, The North Star. Castor and Pollex stand in line, but Orion and his belt are still below the horizon.
When you live in the city you never see a tiny fraction of what is visible to the naked eye when you are clinging to the edge of civilization at midnight. In the city there is so much ambient light that only the brightest celestial lights can be seen – the moon; a few planets and fewer stars. But when you get away from the manmade light you finally get to see what our ancestors saw every night.
There is a constant breeze off the ocean that carries a chill even on the warmest nights. It is in the mid 60s here tonight, but after a few minutes I went back into the house for my jacket. I had to turn on a light to get it and it took me several minutes for my eyes to readjust to the darkness.
I looked from horizon to horizon trying to spot any satellites passing by. I saw nothing, and I think that may be because most satellites are put into more equatorial orbits. There are those manmade moons that are put into polar orbits, but I wasn’t having much luck.
As we were standing there trying to identify the stars by name a shooting star streaked across the sky right in front of us. It was there and gone in two seconds, seemingly within our reach for just a moment. Last week there was a major meteor shower visible here, but we were a three hour drive to the south in the middle of a busy town.
We are hoping that there might be a chance to see the Aurora Borealis, The Northern Lights, while here, but the Solar Winds are not in our favor. Farther north, at Malin Head, the northernmost spot in the Republic, The Lights were visible a couple of nights ago. It was clear there, but we had a thick cloud cover.
It seems appropriate that The Lights would be on display at Malin Head right now. There is a small invasion of a 300 person crew there filming scenes for the next Star Wars movie. The craggy coastline and roaring surf must look sufficiently alien. I know that it looks like no other place I’ve ever seen.
This morning the clouds and fog are back over the coastal waters. The ocean and the sky just melt together to make the horizon that is out there somewhere. Unless things change soon I doubt that we will be reveling in the stars tonight.
I really can’t complain. I’m here in one of the most beautiful places on earth on a crystal clear night, holding hands with my wife, and seeing the glory of creation spread out before me.
What a lucky man I am.