The sound of car tires on gravel always seems especially loud before the sun is up. This morning Dave and I pulled out of our driveway, as quietly as possible, a few minutes after five. We had the highway to ourselves (almost) and a grand view of the full moon.
Earth’s pale satellite was sinking slowly into the juniper-dotted hills south of Santa Fe. Stars winked out as the sun rose behind us, turning the sky pink—New Mexico at its most enchanting. Just before the moon disappeared we passed a herd of wild horses, some with foals, grazing pastures greened with abundant May showers.
It’s my favorite time of year for stargazing. Late evenings and a river of stars bring back memories of standing barefoot on the still-warm concrete driveway in our dark corner of Kansas looking for the pointers in the cup of the Big Dipper. From there it was easy to find the North Star, Polaris. It’s not the brightest object in the sky, not even close, but according to this EarthSky post it’s still visible on a full-moon night if you live in a dark enough place.
We love our dark skies in New Mexico, but it takes ongoing vigilance to keep them that way. This recent Santa Fe Reporter story talks about our state’s ’star power‘ and how best to experience it, from low-watt light bulbs to star parties.
At the beginning of summer I always promise myself that I’ll learn more of the constellations. This year there are several new cell phone apps—a handful of them reviewed in this New York Times video—to help accomplish my goal. Each has it’s selling points, but I am going to hold off for the time being and focus on my new, low-tech planisphere (a Christmas gift) and a small flashlight—its lens painted with red nail polish.
For another view of the universe we are lucky to have the Hubble telescope, recently turned twenty-five. This gallery has a collection of some of the amazing photos it has captured over the years.
Before it gets any later I’m going outside to see if I can spot the North Star.
Have a great week and enjoy these last days of spring!