Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sky Watching For Dummies

Saturday night was supposed to be The Night to observe the Perseid Meteor Shower. It happens every August, but this year had two things going for it that not all years do. There was a waning moon and a clear sky, which meant unobstructed viewing.

My biggest problem with viewing the Perseids is that, given they require darkness in order to be observed, it means they happen after my bedtime. At 9:40 Saturday night I was ready to take myself and my book to bed. I wanted to say I had made an effort to see the meteor shower though, so went out the back door to the deck, glanced up at the sky, didn't see anything, and, satisfied I had done my bit, went back inside.

Twenty minutes later Jay came upstairs and expressed surprise that I wasn't going out to look at the sky. You need to know Jay is somewhat of an amateur astronomer, knows every constellation, and before we moved to Richmond owned a very nice telescope. I said I had already looked and there weren't any meteors. I was informed I was looking at the wrong part of the sky. Fine. I reluctantly got out of bed and followed him outside. This is how the rest of the evening went.

"There's one!"

"Where?" I ask in confusion, looking at a completely different patch of night sky.

More minutes pass with my head bent back, sending a pain down my neck and into my back, without spotting a single meteor. I have a brilliant idea and go to lie down on the hammock to watch. As soon as I lie down I realize that from that angle the roof of our house is blocking the view of the section of sky I want to see. It is also the the moment Jay calls out, "There's another one!"

I go back to standing, pointing out to Jay that it is easier for him to observe since he is a foot closer to the sky than me. I know this makes no sense, but it was past my bedtime. Then I have another great idea. If I scooted the hammock over to the lawn I could lie down and see the part of the sky where the alleged meteor shower was taking place. Guess what happened as I was busy pulling the hammock onto the grass?

"Wow! Did you see that one! That is the most amazing meteor I have ever seen! It was so bright it almost glowed purple!"

Okay, now I was mad. I decided there was no way I was going to bed until I had seen at least one stupid meteor, which I did about 10 excruciatingly painful minutes later. Who knew sky watching could be such a pain in the neck?

Well, to answer my own question I would have to admit I should have known. I have been watching the sky every day for the last six months.  I am now officially halfway down with my Sky Scarf and it is beginning to feel like I am knitting a noose rather than a scarf. I think it will be long enough for one too when it is finished. The thrill of looking at the sky every day at noon and knitting the colours into the scarf started to fade somewhere around the second month. By month four all enthusiasm for the project was gone. Every last little bit. Now, going into month seven I can say the tyranny of this project falls somewhere between shopping and paper work, unpleasant but also unavoidable.

I need to catch up on weaving in the ends. Sigh...


There are two things that keep me knitting away. The first is I have a fairly large investment in the yarn I bought for the project. The second is I know I am going to like the finished product. (Well, as long as I don't get tangled up in it and end up strangling myself.) If you look at the bottom part you can see we have had brilliant weather for the last month and a half. Above that is that horrible stretch of weather we had all through June and into the first of July. And I am just weird enough to think that's kind of neat.

14 comments:

  1. first: this is HILARIOUS. i'd just like you about the sky. a quick peek, yep, done my deal now off to bed. i tried, folks.

    and i also think your sky scarf is extremely cool.

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    1. Now I know who to go sky watching with! We sound like the perfect match. :-)

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  2. That is neat! I've never had any luck with the Perseids, it's almost always hazy in DC at the wrong time. I've been lucky to see a fair number of random meteors.

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    1. The best Perseids I have seen was when we were living on 12 acres way out in the country. There were no lights to interfere and it was spectacular. Where I grew up the night sky was incredible too (again, rural with no lights plus a big open sky) but the Perseids happened in the middle of grain harvest so it wasn't something our family did.

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  3. Its very neat! I love it, but I can also understand the frustration of feeling tied to finishing it!

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    1. Thanks Sarah! I started it on my birthday in February with the idea I would knit it until my next birthday. Now I am wondering if I should stop at the end of the year instead. It would certainly be long enough, but then again wouldn't have the same meaning.

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  4. So glad you posted your progress on the sky scarf. I've been wondering about it.

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    1. Yes, usually silence about a knitting project means abandonment. I'm not saying that couldn't happen with this, but it hasn't yet! :-)

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  5. I totally understand how that project could get tedious, but I also think it will be such a fantastic thing to have finished. Worthy of being passed down through the generations and maybe even put in a museum of some sort (meteorological museum?). Now tell me to take my own advice and finish the tedious baby blanket I've been working on for months....

    As for the sore neck from sky watching, that sounds very similar to the "warbler neck" I get in May from watching the warbler migration on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio. It hurts, but is so worth it! ~Kim

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    1. My guess is you saw a lot more warblers than I did meteors! :-)

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  6. It's just occurred to me that - assuming everyone began on January 1st and the weather wasn't too weird - northern hemisphere sky scarves will be bluest in the middle, and southern hemisphere sky scarves will be bluest at the ends.

    It's looking good Kristie, but I can believe the fun's gone out of it. Same thing happened to me with my sky photo project. Week after week of endless grey skies just don't excite. But in your case, it will be worth it when you've finished I'm sure :D

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    1. It sounds like Britain has had the worst weather in years, so I can see how the thrill quickly went out of the sky photo project. That has been one good thing about my scarf - until this past month of mostly blue skies (and I'm not going to complain about that!) the colours have changed frequently. Of course the bad thing about changing colours is more ends to weave in. :-)

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  7. I was sitting around a campfire on Cortes Island, craning my neck about the same time you were, I guess! Saw one very cool streak of meteor, but missed most of the others. Neck was getting sore. ;) I think you should add to your scarf for the entire year, if you can manage. It would be a great keepsake!

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    1. You must have seen that same great one that Jay did! Ha!

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