Jeremy's almost but not quite entirely moribund blog

Thursday, September 29, 2005

It's Not Just a Candy Bar

Over Labor Day, my family went on vacation to rural Leamington, Utah, where I saw an awe-inspiring view of the Milky Way. The glow of countless unresolved stars in the plane of our galaxy can't be seen from most suburban and urban areas (including my backyard) because it is washed out by light pollution. After that trip, I wondered if I could see that view again without driving a 160-mile round trip.

Last Saturday, we visited my grandparents in Stansbury Park. As we were leaving, I glanced up to the sky to see how it looked compared to my hometown. At first I was disappointed, not seeing any more stars than I'm used to. But then I had the presence of mind to put something solid between myself and my grandfather's driveway floodlights.

Shaded by some large bushes, I looked up to the sky again, and as my eyes adapted to the darkness, I saw dozens of stars pop into view--followed by the Milky Way. I couldn't see the detail I saw in Leamington, but the glowing band was unmistakably there.

As we came around the mountain on Interstate 80, it was quite literally like night and day. I couldn't believe how bright the sky was over Salt Lake County. But I got to thinking, if the shadow of the Oquirrhs could allow me to see the Milky Way in Stansbury, maybe I could see it from Provo Canyon, just minutes from home.

Last night I went up into Provo Canyon, stopping at a view area for Bridal Veil Falls. Sure enough, I could see the Milky Way--better than in Stansbury, in fact. The sky toward the city was totally washed out:

...but when I looked away from the city, the sky was dark enough for nature's lights to shine:

Click the picture for a larger view. It doesn't look like much here, but my camera really isn't sensitive enough to pick up the Milky Way behind Cassiopeia. It was a splendid view. Don't take my word for it, though. Take some time on some clear, moonless night to get out of the city and look into the universe!


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