We’ve had a string of clear weather in the Northeast. I haven’t checked the weather reports in detail, but it’s been cold and clear, which usually means an arctic air mass. And it’s been about two weeks straight. After a pretty cloudy winter, the clear, crisp skies coinciding with a New Moon has been a temptation too hard to resist.
So every night I’ve been able, I’ve donned my thick wool pants and many layers and ventured to the driveway to see what there is to see. Saturn, it’s ring edge-on and razor sharp, a little fan club of moons hanging here and there around it, just above Saturn, a duo of galaxies (actually, it’s called the Leo Trio, but I couldn’t spot the third galaxy), the Flaming Star Nebula in Auriga and the Eskimo nebula in Gemini. Everything except Saturn was new to me, and the challenge of finding them (a little north from the bright kite-formation of stars is a little curving line of dimmer stars and then move to the east…) kept me coming back
Night after night. I was getting pretty tired, and cranky. But this hobby borders on obsession. I have to have something to carry me through the long stretches of rain. My wife was supportive, but worried. She hinted that I was starting to look a little older. I skipped my morning tea the other day and found myself with a headache.
The life of an astronomer is a delicate balancing act. Finally, yesterday, the weather started to change. It was really windy. The sailing team looked more suicidal than usual in their dry suits on a very rough lake. “It’s going to be cloudy tonight,” my wife said.
“Thank the gods!” I said, ironically. I’m usually wishing for those clear skies. By yesterday I just wanted a respite. Which I got. Socked in. No temptation other than a kitchen to clean up, a couch to sit on, and the last episode of Planetes to watch on my computer. And going to bed at 10pm!