Thursday, May 3, 2012


Tim McCord's famous 2011 photograph of the
 moon at the closest point
Time to dust off the camera and get those blankets out. 

Saturday night is a wondrous night for looking at the sky.  The moon is at the closest point to us as its orbit isn't perfectly round. It will be huge. We also pass through the tail of Halley's comet and that produces the  Eta Aquarid  meteor shower .... that is if you can see it in the midst of the moonlight. 1135pm is the exact time when the moon is closest and we think you will be able to just reach up and touch it.

My father was born in 1910, one of the years Halley's Comet appears and I kinda remember it in 1986 but not much.  It will be back in 2066 or so and we remember from our history days that famous Battle of Hastings tapestry with the comet in it (1066 remember?) is an interesting coincidence.  Doesn't matter much as I am not planning on seeing it.  Once in a lifetime is about all most of us get.

Back in 1066 it was thought that the comet had something to do with King Harold getting an arrow in the eye and loosing the battle.  When I was about 5 or so, my parents gave me an astronomy book and in it was a picture of the comet from 1910 and I remember the text to this day - "the comet won't appear again until 1986".  We get to see just the scraps from it - the cosmic clumps - and in particular I wonder what the ancients thought about that when they saw it...fireflies perhaps...the shooting stars of childhood although the concept of starts and space dust weren't on any one's radar a thousand years ago.

We sing at the moon in our ignorance of it.  The heavens as well for that matter. Makes us something like wolves.  I would, however, like to see the dust of the comet that launched my father in the world and in 1066 another Harold (my dad was so named) fell to a bad fate but the comet passing was noted nonetheless. These meteor showers are pretty common but in my mind, would have found my father just shy of 30 years old running a restaurant in Ann Arbor, taking a break out back in the alley off S. University and looking up at the night sky.

Saturday night will find me in a lawn chair, camera in hand, a telescope if it arrives in time, and a meteor shower at the rate of 1 a minute sparking across the moonbeams.  If it rains I am pretty sure I'll still see it. It is pretty clear right now.  Mind's eye you know.

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