Stargazing on the terrace

MilkyWayRemember when the night skies were full of stars? Not just a few random bright dots on an otherwise dark backdrop – but whole drifts of fine-grained pinpoints where the more you look, the more you see? The  structure of the Milky Way on clear view as it wheels above you? Shooting stars? Such is the nightly show above our terrace – weather permitting, of course!

Conditions over the last few nights have been perfect for stargazing. The moon is reduced to a small sliver, rapidly following the sun below the horizon each evening. Also, the bura has swept away  remnants of the rather thick, humid air of last week, leaving a few puffy clouds in an otherwise clear sky. How lovely then, to wander out on to our terrace in the middle of the night, lie back and enjoy the sight! Though it has to be said it’s a touch chilly at this time of year, and a fleecy blanket feels good.

Those small puffy clouds make it difficult for me to identify the constellations with any certainty – plus, I find it harder to determine the basic patterns with so many stars out there. These days, I tend to cheat, and I rely on the Star Walk app  to tell me what I’m looking at – to my mind one of the best reasons for having an iPad! But in the middle of the night, who cares, really? It’s peaceful just to lie back and enjoy the universe rather than try to name the parts.

Vrboska nights are very quiet. With no background noise of traffic, the silence is almost absolute. Except for the birds who are apparently still awake and calling. It’s actually pretty startling when an owl glides over the top of me, very close! Our terrace opens off the 2nd floor (that’s the 3rd floor in American-speak), so is quite high up, with an enclosing stone wall.  The birds, and bats too, later in the summer, naturally fly over and around it without seeing us.

The other night, at the edge of my vision, I kept seeing flickering lights. Was it just my imagination? Although we’d had some cracking good thunderstorms over the past week, it was dead quiet, and the sky was clear. The sense of intermittent flashes kept growing – now over in the west, now southeastwards. We appeared to be in a quiet area surrounded by distant storms – so far away I couldn’t hear them. But I could certainly see them in my peripheral vision. As time went on, the flashes grew brighter and more frequent, and by the time I retreated back to bed, the rumblings of thunder had started to roll over again.

I’m afraid I don’t have the skill or patience for nighttime photography, so the view of the Milky Way comes to you courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.