Clouds Ahoy

Shiver me timbers, matey. There’s a cloud on the horizon. Make haste for the forecastle hammocks before we’re beset by foul weather. Arrrr, avast and belay!

In Phoenix we had near-perfect skies all day, and then, at dusk, the clouds came marching in from all corners and a hot wind blows from the west. I’m sure the city fathers will manage whatever July 4th displays they have planned – heck, if San Francisco can do it, so can Phoenix. In our neighborhood, we have to climb onto the roof to see anything at all of this; the neighbors’ bottle rockets and strings of firecrackers will intrude sufficiently. Some years, from a predictable part of town, we can hear yahoos unleash the 14-round auto pistols and the AK-47’s, and then we hear some sirens, and then nothing.

It doesn’t look like an ideal viewing night.

Yesterday it was cloudy most of the day (“slight chance of showers”) and then cleared up nicely by nightfall. At 9PM, yawning, I went out for a quick visual inspection of my night sky. It was hazy to the west and the skyglow was intense. If going back indoors, you’d notice, under such conditions, you don’t need any lights on inside at all to navigate safely, or to clearly see all the objects in the living room.

I was able to locate Polaris, but not the Little Dipper attached to it. In time, I was able to trace out the Big Dipper, but almost never can see Ursa Major of which the Big Dipper is a part. Overhead, the “summer triangle”: Vega of Lyra, Deneb of Cygnus, and Altair of Aquila. I am rarely able to pick out those particular constellations without a guidebook or starfinder, but I was delighted that I was actually able to see Corona Borealis.

It was not an ideal viewing night. But it might have been my best shot. Tonight, the Clear Sky Clock below tells the whole story.

Yesterday, I had gotten up at 6AM that morning, done the yard work, gone to a movie, and missed my nap. I was really tired, and went to bed after the visual viewing session. Now, there’s an excuse you don’t hear too often, for it’s too namby-pamby to be faked.

Tonight is “amateur night”, and you know what? I have a lot of fun staying indoors in the air conditioned living room, listening to music, and reading Sky and Telescope. At 9PM, I’ll go out anyway, just to see what I’m missing. I may take a short cooling dip in the pool. Now, I know this is stranger than fiction, but true: you know what else? When I start yawning, I’m off to bed. What would a perfect vacation be without plenty of shut-eye? (wink wink)

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