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Chasing comets in Norfolk

January 23, 2015

A crystal clear Norfolk over the village gave us a chance to do a bit of comet spotting. Comet Lovejoy sails high in the southern evening sky. We returned to the best man-made viewing platform – the old railway embankment. For the last few nights the Comet has been climbing alongside the constellations Orion and Taurus, but it was really only last night that it escaped the polluting skyglow from Norwich. A short search revealed it as a greenish glowing smudge to the west of that jewel-like cluster of stars, the Pleiades or Seven-Sisters. As we watched the frost nipped our fingers, but we felt some connection, no matter how distant, with cold space.

As I walk out along the old railway line, the waxing half moon hangs in the sky above Jupiter and Venus. The planets measure out a gentle tilting line arcing down to the south west. Above the evening hum of tyre noise from the Aylsham Road comes the unmistakeable whistle of a Golden Plover. These wading birds are much given to night flights, they probably migrate during the dark hours. Their arrival locally is a clear signal of the gathering momentum of Spring. For as many years as I can remember they have gathered on the same few arable fields to the south of us. They appear to use this as a staging post during their Autumn and Spring migrations. If I lay in bed awake on a moonlit night at migration time their whistles regularly drift through the open window from somewhere in the night sky. Their journey north will eventually end on their nesting grounds on Arctic tundra, but for a short while they take the soft Norfolk air whilst refuelling and waiting for that moment when it is right to press on.

November full Moon

November 12, 2011

The full moon of Thursday night was a truly wonderful sight, sailing over the eastern Brampton sky at just the right elevation for a garden telescope-based view. For half an hour, until the cloud cover put an end to proceedings, we moved amongst the brightly lit craters, seas and mountains of the Moon. Tonight the Moon was escorted through the sky by Jupiter – a contrasting scale of distance but this evening she failed to draw us away from the main subject.

Evening sky

October 30, 2011

On Friday night the autumn sky was at it’s best in the early evening. Jupiter was rising over Oxnead.

In the west a star flashed with so much red and green that at first we mistook it for an aircraft. It was eventually identified as Arcturus, one of the brightest stars in the night sky and part of the constellation Bootes. It was sobering to learn that the star light which we saw was leaving it’s source, over 200 trillion miles away, when Abba released the single ‘Waterloo’ – although this meant more to Helen than it did to me. To find this star we followed the direction tail of the plough in a gentle curve.

After all this deep space thought it was a relief to call in at the village club for a beer and game of darts.