I went out last night to take the dogs for their last constitutional before bedtime, and I didn't turn the porch light on as I usually do. I decided to avoid attracting the 3.8 million bugs that swarm around the light when I do that. I always take the flashlight with me to light the steps for the dogs. With both of them losing vision rather fast, they hesitate a lot at night, and when I shine the light on the steps just ahead of them, they do much better.
So we went down the steps and while they were on flat surfaces, I turned the light off. As I waited for them, I looked up at the sky and just gasped. Without the porch light, far away from any vestige of city lights, and without a big shiny moon, the sky was amazing. I have watched in the recent months, but not without out those aforementioned encumberments. I even got Gail to come outside and just look at it.
The Milky Way was truly milk-like. It was so bright and filled the center of the sky with those millions of stars that are its composition. Every star was a pinpoint of light outside the Milky Way. I remember looking at the starry skies in Kansas City and being awed, but this is something completely different. Without any town light closer than 10 miles (and that's a very small town, mostly "buttoned up" at that time of night) it was so different. Ten miles outside KC or Houston or Minneapolis or wherever isn't the same as ten miles from the few lights of Capitan, pop. 1280. Ruidoso is larger, between 7500 to 15,000 with tourists, but it also on the other side of several mountains, so I don't see even a glimmer of its lights at night.
My camera is great for shots of flora here on earth, but not start that are millions of miles away, so I resorted to the Internet for this picture. But as you look at the Milky Way in the following photo, imagine the background to be black, black, black. Yeah, awesome!
So now ... close your eyes. NO, WAIT!! You can't read with your eyes closed. Silly me! Close the eyes inside your head and imagine a dark, dark black sky, with bright diamond dots scattered all over it. The Big Dipper is almost three-dimensional. It was almost at this angle last night, but a bit more in the "pouring" position.
Everything was awesomely vivid. I wish we'd had this map, because it would have been fairly easy to identify the various constellations with their brightness.
I'm going out again tonight and see if I can identify several more sets of stars. I didn't even think of coming in and checking out the Internet sites last night because I was just in such rapture over the magnitude of it all. Maybe I'll even find Aries, the stars of my zodiac sign.
I haven't been camping in many years, away from city lights. And in Missouri, I think it would have been more difficult to get this far from lights. Towns are far closer together there and on flatter landscapes, so the light would carry more than it does here. It was a breathtaking experience, and I'm so glad I finally looked up on that clear dark night! Now I'm wishing for a good telescope. That would be excellent. Maybe some day I will indulge myself. Till then, I just have to look up more often and begin to memorize my sky.
(Night) Life is beautiful!!!