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Stellar Splendor: An Extraordinary Encounter

12 Oct 2017, 19:04 UTC
Stellar Splendor: An Extraordinary Encounter
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

A deepest, darkest sky offers an extraordinary encounter with the stars.
Skalnate Pleso Atlas of the Heavens
There are different experiences of awe or great wonder in astronomy. The most staggering and momentous, I believe, comes during a total eclipse of the Sun. But the most peacefully (yet still stirringly) wondrous is the sight of a clear, dark sky filled with stars.
Perhaps the best sky of this sort was one I observed 40 years ago this September.
Early autumn’s limit-pushing clear nights
Across most of the contiguous United States, the least cloudy time of year runs from about late August through mid-October. Strong cold fronts move through frequently but briefly, temporarily pushing away clouds and haze. Here where I live in rural southern New Jersey, a favorably placed “omega block” weather pattern sometimes produces extremely transparent nights in late April or early May. But some of the clearest and therefore most star-crowded nights I’ve experienced occurred in September or early October.
Stars to 8.0?
Take a look at our October all-sky map on page 42 (October 2017 issue). The bright stars from northeast to southwest resemble a wave sweeping the Milky Way band across the sky. But filling the ...

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