Really Dark Skies Over Sunflower Farm

Reader Contribution by Cam Mather

By Cam Mather

A month or so ago (October 24th)
my cats woke me up in the middle of the night. Since I was awake, I got
up and went to the bathroom. I looked out the bathroom window, which
faces north, and noticed that something didn’t look quite right in the
northern sky. Of course I didn’t have my glasses on, so it was all kind
of blurry. I did manage to see a comet streak through the sky and I
wondered, “What were the odds of that?”  But even after the comet was
gone, I could still some eerie light coming from the north.

So I
stumbled upstairs and got my glasses, and came back down and went
outside and stood in front of the house and stared at the sky. There was
a crazy light show happening to the north. There was no moon and even
if there had been, it wouldn’t have been shining from that part of the
sky. Since it was only 4 a.m. I knew it wasn’t the sun rising.

I
can’t put my finger on what I saw, but it was a light that isn’t usually
there and it was really cool. When we watched the news the next night I
found out that a lot of U.S. States had experienced a great show of the
northern lights because of solar radiation. So while I didn’t get the
full show, it was pretty cool. And it’s one of the best things about
living in the woods. Just staring up at the night sky. Apparently
Michelle sleeps quite well out here in the country, since I managed to
get out of bed once, then come back and get my glasses, go out the front
door and stand outside for 10 minutes, then go back to bed, and
Michelle didn’t even know I had been gone. I guess that aliens could
have abducted me and she would have missed the whole thing.

Courtesy of http://starlightcascade.ca
Photo courtesy of http://starlightcascade.ca

We
really lucked out in finding this place. We are within a reasonable
driving distance of Toronto and Ottawa, but we do not get the light
pollution from those big cities. On nights when we have meteor showers
it’s just an awesome place to watch them. As the Lennox & Addington
County (where we live) website says…

One of the many
highlights of L&A is that our dark nights make conditions ideal for
stargazing. L&A is the most southern point in Ontario where the
night sky is so pristine, offering a night sky experience very similar
to what was available 100 years ago.

The conditions here must be
perfect for stargazing, as world-renowned astronomer Terence Dickinson
chose to live here in Lennox & Addington over anywhere else in the
universe. (http://www.lennox-addington.on.ca/things-to-do/experience-the-outdoors/star-gazing.html)

Not too shabby…..

I
remember one really cold night when there was a huge meteor shower and I
slid into a sleeping bag to watch it for a few hours, starting at about
3 a.m. I know … what a stupid idea. Why not just rent a video? Or play
video games? Is that what you do for fun in the country? Well, that and
watch the weather channel.

Photo courtesy of http://starlightcascade.ca

I
just love staring up at a starry sky especially on a moonless night. I
haven’t the foggiest idea of what I’m looking at. So many people have
become stargazers and know all the constellations and the names of what
they’re looking at. There have been many things I’ve tried to learn
about, but I’ve never pursued a study of the cosmos. I just like to
stand and stare at it. And wonder. In wonder. Kind of an “ignorance is
bliss” kind of thing.

Photo courtesy of http://starlightcascade.ca

It’s
so great for putting everything in context. I’m so small and
insignificant in the overall picture of things. Really. That nagging
worry. In the bigger picture. What a huge waste of energy even thinking
about it.

The distance the light has traveled boggles the mind.
What the other planets and stars look like is so open ended. Or as
someone in the movie “Contact,” said about the possibility of life on
other planets, “If it’s just us, it seems like an awful waste of space.”

I
watch those NOVA-type shows that try and explain that the universe is
expanding after the big bang, or now it’s contracting … I can’t
remember. I prefer to use the movie “Contact” as my cosmic guide. It was
written by the “billions and billions” astronomer Carl Sagan. In this
movie the character played by Jodie Foster is part of an organization
called SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.) When she hears
“chatter” coming from the star Vega, she’s presented with an opportunity
to track down its source. She has a million questions but mostly she
wants to know the answer to the big questions “When did it start, how
did they get to where they are?” And the answer is basically “We don’t
know. Someone got in contact with us and passed along the information
and we passed it on to you.” It was gloriously ambiguous. And I think
that’s what I liked. There was no definite answer, or attempt to provide
it.

I think that’s why I like staring at the night sky from the
sidewalk in front of my house. It is just one honkin’ big
incomprehensible universe and maybe at some point I’ll get the answer
but for right now it’s just a mystery.

In a world of Google
Searches and the ability to answer just about any question you might
have, I think it’s pretty great that the ultimate, biggest question is
unanswerable. I guess I should head out to meditate and try and achieve
oneness with the universe. Or not.

* * * * * * *

A note about the photos
– Since I’ve never attempted to take photos of the night skies around
here, I got permission from Kevin & Kim who live at Starlightcascade
Observatory and Gardens south of me, to use some of their amazing
photos. Be sure to check out their website; http://starlightcascade.ca

For more information about Cam or his books, please visit www.cammather.com or www.aztext.com