In the Shadow of the Milky Way...

Missing Skies....

July 21, 2003 started out as most trips. Carrie and I headed out of Houston bound toward Sonora, Texas. We made the long drive and had plans to see these skies that my friend, Mark Egan, had been talking about. As the sun set we made our way out to a spot about 22 miles South of Sonora, Texas. There was a light breeze as the sun set, but the wind soon laid and left us with stunning starry skies. 

At 9:44pm I had detected the faint glow of the Milky Way. Two meteors were viewed. Then Carrie began yelling, "Chris...Chris...Chris!" I whirled from looking at the Cygnus region of the sky to South, but had missed the exceptional meteor she had just viewed. It was 9:47 looking southwest when the meteor had started and quickly raced to the horizon. Carrie estimated that the meteor crossed about 20 degrees of sky and had a blue color to it.  She said that it was as bright as Venus and talked about how the meteor reminded her of the bright meteors we viewed during the Leonid Storm of 2001.  

Once the sky was dark we began to photograph and observe with a pair of 10X50 binoculars. The stars that I was seeing was equal to the darkest skies I'd ever seen (North of Cripple Creek, Colorado at an elevation of 10,000ft). I had been looking for skies like those in Colorado ever since 1999, and here before me were skies equal to that. Cries of joy arose when I realized I had found that dark sky again, "WHOO HOO!"

Milky Way Casts Shadow....

I went to my star chart and suddenly realized something was...different. I could see the star chart easily and there was no hint of light pollution or moon in the skies. I stepped back and looked to the ground. I gasped as I could make out my shadow on the ground. My heart raced as I held my hand in front of me, then placed the other hand halfway in front of the other. I slowly turned the source of light and found the summer Milky Way. I don't believe I've ever screamed so loud...WHOO HOO!!! I could barely explain to Carrie what was going on and my mind began to comprehend what I was seeing...my shadow from the Milky Way. 

I showed Carrie and she quickly feed off of my excitement as we laughed and walked around finding our shadows on our star charts, ground and car. The shadows were sharp enough to easily see our fingers in the shadows of our hands. Carrie began making shadow puppets and we laughed and giggled through pure wonder and amazement of the starry skies above us. 

Few things top my list of important events in my life. With my love of the starry heavens it is not surprising that two of those spots belong to the skies...the Leonids 2001 and the Milky Way casting my shadow.

Stars were easily viewed with no fading all the way to the horizon and we began star hopping from one object to another. We began to feel the tiredness of the eight-hour trip we had taken just earlier and at 12:30am we were pretty tired. We slowly packed up looking at the skies the whole time. I miss those skies already, but know that I will find them again.... soon.

The following objects were observed with binoculars on this night with the unaided eye and binoculars (10X50)

M7- Cluster M62-  M4- cluster M19- globular Cluster
M8- Lagoon Nebula M6- cluster M20- Trifid Nebula M21- cluster
M17- Swan Nebula M18- cluster M23- cluster M13- Hercules Cluster
M11-  M29-  CR339-  M31- Andromeda Galaxy

The next night we took some more photographs and counted meteors and satellites from a location West of San Antonio. There were six meteors observed and 13 satellites seen. At one point there were four satellites in the sky at the same time.

Galactic Center I
Milky Way Center
Cygnus
Cygnus
Summer Trails and meteor 
Summer Star Trails and meteor (bottom right)
Galactic Center II
Galactic Center 2003
Satellite through Cygnus)
Satellite through Cygnus
Satellite and plane through Aquila
Satellite and Plane
Maping of area with Messier objects
Satellite and Plane Mapping of objects
Satellite through Aquila
Satellite through Aquila
Satellite through Scorpio
Satellite through Scorpio
Satellite through Nebula
Satellite through nebula in Milky Way
Scorpio and meteor
Faint meteor through Scorpio (center)
Two Satellites and trails
Two Satellites 
     

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