Northern Lights Express

Astronomy and a love for the night sky travels with a person no matter where you go or what you do.

In our younger years of life, we have all the time and energy to explore the great cosmos. As a young adult, the real world of responsibilities (careers and children and all that stuff) invades and seriously cuts into your personal exploration of the universe.

Time and good karma has a way of making up for this. Eventually the kids grow up and you are not working seven days a week. Suddenly you have time on your hands and the call of the night sky once again beckons you.

While out for lunch one day with some friends, the conversation came up, as it always does, “I used to be into astronomy as a kid and I am looking to get back into the hobby again, so what has changed?”

The simple answer is, “Everything, and it is all good as far as I can see.”

Technology and new production techniques now make telescopes and mirrors much better than was ever even dreamed possible in younger days.

With the computer age in full bloom, there is an endless amount of gadgets designed just to make astronomy easier for the amateur or the professional. From computerized GPS-driven telescope mounts to eyepieces that present such high-quality views that you have to hold onto something so you don’t fall into the eyepiece.

Retailers are also presenting a unified front by offering very aggressive and competitive pricing. Lets face it, this a exciting time for astronomy, regardless of how much or how little you want to become involved.

Recently, I have noticed a definite lack of Northern Lights and I have been hoping to get some photographs on my digital camera. Good things come to those who are patient.

It is an early November, Friday night, with a clear sky. Temperature is a balmy –8 degrees Celsius with a light wind from the south. There is a partial moon, but it will set in a few hours.

With all my astro gear outside and ready to go, I am set.

First, let’s check out the sky, it is crystal clear as I can see the Double Star Cluster easily, even without binoculars. Even the Orion Nebula is visible to the unaided eye as a slight smudge.

The only problem so far is that I had to put on insulated coveralls, parka and insulated Sorel boots. Just a little bit overkill, I was cooking in no time.

This winter, I hope to build a pair of heated coveralls by taking apart a heating blanket and installing the heater core right into my coveralls.

Now, how is that for the pursuit of comfort and warmth?

After two hours of checking out all of the basic deep sky objects (nebula, star clusters and galaxies), I noticed a light haze starting to move in. My first thought was that it was low cloud and my evening would soon be at an end.

Thankfully, I was wrong. It was those elusive Northern Lights that I had been perusing. It was not a terribly strong display with fast moving curtains of light, but all the same it was a great display.

My neighbour (also an avid astronomy enthusiast), who lives behind us, had his front porch light on and the lights at the back of his house out. This presented me with a dark sky and trees on the horizon lit up by the porch light.

With the Northern Lights seeming to emanate from the top of Grey Mountain, it was an irresistible opportunity to get that picture that I was hoping to obtain.

Those Northern Lights and those amazing Yukon Night Skies stayed clear, dark and full of aurora till 4:00 a.m. I finally got the pictures that I wanted and the entire evening was a memory to cherish.

There are amazing things happening in those frosty Yukon Night Skies of ours. We are going to explore them and discover the wondrous universe around us. After all, 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy.

We shall talk more about this in our next column. So make some time, head outside, and check out the greatest light show on planet Earth.


Nov. 19 Last quarter Moon.

Nov. 27 New Moon.

Nov. 30 Venus and Jupiter make a nice pairing in the early evening sky.

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