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Friday, January 25, 2008

The Bright Lights Tonight

Even in Cumbria the northern night skies are no longer the jewelbox of childhood. Light pollution from Carlisle and the coastal towns swamps much of the starlight not already dowsed by the particulates that hang heavy in industrial skies. Here in the populous, over-developed north of the planet you look up and feel yourself solitary in the isolation of a lonely universe.
Down below, in the unpopulated oceanic vastness of the southern hemisphere, the night skies give an entirely different impression. Orion, shorn of his scabbard, sports an enthusiastic erection, a lover not a hunter. The Milky Way streams in incandescant profusion across the sky, and the Magellanic Clouds swarm with light. It's impossible not to feel a local part of so great a celestial network, and the most distant realities seem close enough to touch. Stargazing brings with it a wondrous sense of connection, and I'm looking forward to the next time I see the Southern Cross from a hillside in the Western Cape.

3 Comments:

Blogger Lex said...

We grow used to light pollution, and more's the pity. This past fall I took my son on a Cub Scout outing to a camp about an hour south of town, on the edge of the Uwharrie National Forest. After the sun set at the campfire ceremony, he was stunned at the number of stars that came out. I was stunned at his reaction, until I realized that that might have been the first time in his life he'd been outside a moving car where the stars were so visible.

25/1/08 6:19 pm  
Anonymous Eleanor said...

Well Nick, all the more reason we must do a road trip out west in the next couple of years!

25/1/08 7:13 pm  
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