Thursday 19 December 2013

dark skies

The Milky Way, seen from the Pic du Midi de Bigorre
One night in early September, N and I went stargazing. It was an exceptionally clear night, with neither moon nor wisps of cloud in sight. It had rained earlier in the day and there was a smell of damp earth rising from the ground as we walked out from the forest onto the little grassy knoll jutting out into the valley.

Shielded from the street lights of nearby Bagnères de Bigorre, the Milky Way was visible, a rich speckled band of million of stars. 

We stood on the hillside for what seemed hours, heads turned towards the heavens. 

We exchanged the names of stars, his Grande Ourse for my Big Dipper. Satellites traced a path between the constellations, and shooting stars fell towards the earth. We clung together, transfixed by the beauty of the night sky. 

The distance from the earth to the sky is always hard to comprehend, the fact that the light we can see now is so old that the star itself might actually be dead. 

Yet it is even harder to comprehend that we too are made of stardust, that almost every element on this earth was first formed at the heart of a star...

Stargazing at the Pic du Midi
Many thanks to Nicolas Bourgeois, leader of the Pic du Midi Dark Sky Project team, for the accompanying images of the night sky...they are stunning.