Aurora Borealis

The Blue Moon, (second full moon in a month) has come and gone as coincidentally so have our wonderful display of Northern Lights. However, skywatchers can get a treat almost any clear night of the year, especially in Algonquin Park, where dark skys reign. Countless stars and the band of our galaxy, the Milky Way are clearly visible.

Something I like to call “The Show” also takes place a few times each day. Extremely bright satellites made of Iridium are used to transmit satellite telephone calls. Our remote sat phone uses these satellites which pass over head frequently. A wonderful website called Heavens Above lists regular occurances of Iridium Flares for virtually any location on the planet. These flares occur in pinpoints in thy sky when the antennae of the satellite bounces the suns light in the direction of observers on earth. The flash of a few seconds grows in brightness to 10 times as bright as a full moon. And then quickly it disappears. Most who see it let out an audible gasp.

The neat thing about Heavens Above is that the web site lists the exact point in the sky as well as the time of day to seek these neat happenings out. I also recommend getting a list of the visual passes of the International Space Station as it soars overhead. It doesn’t take long to find your way around the night sky with a watch, a compass and a field manual for the stars. Incidentally, this too is available in lots of places online including SkyandTelescope.com.

Although usually much more brief and certainly smaller than Northern Lights, the show makes me say, ” Wow!” every time I see it.

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