Seeing stars on Hvar and the arrival of Venus

I was awake early this morning, listening to the sounds of the night. The 4 o’clock bells had just struck and it occurred to me that it would be beautifully cool out on the terrace, and maybe the moon would be setting so I could see the stars. A full moon, particularly a supermoon, is not terribly helpful when you’re trying to see the less bright objects in the night sky!

Wrapping myself in a blanket, I made myself comfortable on a reclining chair, gazing upwards. The moon was illuminating the side of the house, so bright that I could see the warm colour of the stone. It hadn’t set yet, then. I could see the W of Cassiopeia above me, and Orion off to my right, with Sirius flickering pretty colours below it. There was enough definition to see a background of fainter stars, but not quite good enough for the Milky Way to stand out.

As I watched, a meteor streaked across, a slow burner leaving a bright trail. Vrboska at night is very quiet, and I could hear the dull musical clank of a bell – does someone nearby have goat? The soft whinny of a horse made me think perhaps that was it, do you put a bell on your horse to keep track of it?

The chug-chug of a motor must be a returning fishing boat, or perhaps a tractor setting out to the fields? It’s harvest season now, and the grapes need to be picked before the day warms up. It’s been hot during the day, around 32-33 C or low 90s F. Nice for going to the beach. Not so much for picking grapes!

A black shadow passed over, very low and close to my head, completely silent. Owl or bat? Based on size I decided it was probably a bat, coming to the end of its shift. Hopefully it caught a lot of flying bugs. It certainly gave me a start!

Up high, a jetliner is moving, lights flashing. It would seem to have just taken off, coming from Dubrovnik down the coast, perhaps? As it rose into the sunshine, its condensation trail appeared light against the still-dark sky, a sign that the sun wasn’t far off. It was around that time that it dawned on me (somewhat literally) that the setting moon was now being balanced on the opposite side by the imminent arrival of the sun. Of course, that would have to be, for a full moon to be lit up it must be on the opposing side of the earth.

With the lightening sky, a flight of swifts swoops over the terrace, zig-zagging and shrieking. At this time of day they’re quite low to the ground, which tells me where the bugs are to be found! Other birds are up and about, too, I can hear their calls.

As I sit up to peer in the direction of the impending sunrise, I catch sight of Venus, rising ahead of the sun. It’s a beautiful bright beacon against a sky streaked now with soft yellow, orange and pale red, down to violet near the ground. If I squint, I can almost make out it’s a crescent, curving down on the left. A very pretty sight! After enjoying the view for a while, I can’t resist going for my camera to see if I can capture something of the magic.

Sunrise with Venus towards the top left

Sunrise with Venus towards the top left

The end of the night is signalled in Vrboska by two churches – Sv Marija striking 6 bells, and Sv Lovran pealing a joyous summon to prayer for the faithful. Time for me to get up and enjoy the day!


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