In the Shadow of the Milky Way...
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.
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!"
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.
Milky Way Center
Summer Star Trails and meteor (bottom right)
Galactic Center 2003
Satellite through Cygnus
Satellite and Plane
Satellite and Plane Mapping of objects
Satellite through Aquila
Satellite through Scorpio
Satellite through nebula in Milky Way
Faint meteor through Scorpio (center)
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