Saturday, March 26, 2011

At Lawacharra

It was good to get away to Lawacharra Forest in the north-east...away from the news, the noise, and the pollution. There was only a generator and that sputtered for just part of the night.

Right after dinner, my wife and I were left alone in silence and darkness surrounded by the bending trees and the glowing stars.

Orion was plainly visible, and its belt pointed to the brightest star, Sirius. After sunset, the zodiacal light bathed our bungalow.

Sometimes, a firefly seemed a deceptive star.

For the first time, I saw Saturn, rising at azimuth east 94 degrees, and situated by ten just above the areca palm. It glowed majestically through my binoculars.

The moon rose promptly at 8:33 (well, we assumed it did) and we saw its progress across the sky on the vernal equinox (nowrooz) till midnight. We tried to stay awake till after midnight to see Anatares, but our eyelids revolted, and we turned in, to the music of numerous night-creatures...crickets, frogs, tuctoo lizards....Or sometimes I preferred to read Jalaluddin Rumi indoors while the generator was on.

Fortunately, the sky wasn't draped, as on nights before, with the altostratus translucidus, a thick transparent cloud that reveals the moon but not the stars. And the wind was everywhere and the night was cold.

The expression 'azimuth', so important for star-gazers, reminded me of Arabia: al-sumut, the directions. The Arabs were master astronomers, and my favourite character is Tusi. After he helped Hulegu Khan destroy Baghdad, his patron built him a giant observatory. From that observatory, some of his sightings and insights made their way to Copernius, and we have the Copernican Revolution.

In a forest, one can muse on these things....

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