Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bright Sky

Marsh Harbor
N 26 32.845 W 077 03.485

The other night we sat at anchor off the eastern shore of Grand Abaco Island. It was fairly calm and a warm night, so we stayed up on deck long after sunset. As we looked up that night the stars were brilliantly bright. It was such a pleasure to look upon them. We spotted all the major stars, constellations and planets that we know. Then I grabbed the binoculars and tried for the umpteenth time to see the Andromeda Galaxy. Even though I know exactly where to look in the sky, I never succeeded
in seeing it before. Well that night, I saw it. It was just a faint smudge but it had the right oval shape, so I'm certain. What a delight, after all those years, to actually see it. In a few billion years, Andromeda will start to collide with the Milky way, so it is a critically important object in the future history of our galaxy.

Only once before have I seen the stars so bright. The other time was in 1994 on a sailboat in the Stockholm Archipelago in Sweden. That night we were only 200 miles away from an intensely low pressure storm. We theorized that the thinning of the air above us near the low made the stars brighter. The morning after we woke to terrifying news on the radio. 200 miles away, the ferry Estonia had sunk in 100 foot waves with the loss of about 850 lives.

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