October Phoenix Nights

After the weekend showers the day skies have been crystal clear, but the nightglow persists no matter what, I suppose. It was an average viewing night. I could clearly make out the top three stars defining Cassiopeia, could barely make out the fourth, and just couldn’t quite see the bottom of the famous and easily identifiable W.

With the naked eye I kept thinking I saw a fuzzy patch about where I imagined I have seen Andromeda. With the skyglow and the earliness of the evening, I didn’t believe it, so I went and got the binocs, and there was nothing there.

While using the 15×70 Orion Little Giant binoculars I was of course hoping I would then see Andromeda. I never look in the right place, so I have to go indoors, check Starry Night Pro, and go back out. I’m indoors now (natch) and not planning to go back out again until just before bedtime.

But a gray, swept-wing silhouette of a large jet flew into my field of vision. As far as I could tell, it had no running lights. It was too high to hear any sound. And tracking it led me right past the North American Nebula (according to Starry Night Pro). When learning the night sky, I’ll take any stage props I can get.

A year ago (September 2005) I wrote of the “Cassiopeia Neighborhood” and my “discovery” of a cascade of stars falling out of the bottom of the “W”:

Below Cassiopeia (as it rises in the East), cascades a long spilling trail of stars down into the rising constellation Perseus. It is quite rich. I call it Yosemite Falls, and on a clear night you can practically hear it; in fits of romantic fantasy I imagine the sound of wind chimes.

I suspect this area is part of Perseus, but without more careful study I couldn’t say for sure. I wouldn’t say it was scintillating tonight, but with the 15×70’s it was still a delight to see. Even with average urban night skies, and a little patience, there is always something so see. Maybe I won’t wait for bedtime to go back out there after all!

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