When Moon Dined from a Stellar Manger

Colored lights of our skies are a trigger for the imagination. The sky is a storybook to be written by the mind and passed along in language. The 3,000 observable stars and planets visible on any one moonless, clear night away from artificial lights draw on the human obsessional skill for pattern recognition. Over millennia, […]

Colored lights of our skies are a trigger for the imagination. The sky is a storybook to be written by the mind and passed along in language. The 3,000 observable stars and planets visible on any one moonless, clear night away from artificial lights draw on the human obsessional skill for pattern recognition.

Over millennia, stars along the path of the planets and sun through the sky held a special place for careful observers. Twelve patterns were imagined, each a named constellation. The word “constellation” means “to know from the stars.” Indeed, we can know much from the constellations. For example, it is winter in the northern hemisphere when the constellation “Cancer” (The Crab) is high in the night sky.

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Click photograph for my OnLine Galleries. Clicking the other photographs in this post will yield a larger image.

On the evening of January 20/21, 2019 the full moon climbed from the horizon (Click this link for the first post of this series “Total Lunar Eclipse of 2019…”) to a point high overhead were it appeared to float among the stars of Cancer, the crab. On the way, the disk darkened as its orbital path brought it into the earth’s shadow. The surrounding stars emerged from the darkening full moon glow. I captured the sight using a Canon dslr, the Canon EF 24 mm f/1.4L II USM lens mounted on a tripod by setting the ISO to 3200 to reduce the exposure to 1.3 second and placing the auto exposure area (a feature of the dslr/lens combination) away from the full moon.

Additionally, the moon is overexposed on the original image, for the following I used Photoshop to cut and paste the moon from the last photograph of this blog, reduced it to the approximate angular diameter of the moon and pasted it over the overexposed disk. There are better astrophotography images of this event, this image is mine to use and adequate for this purpose.

The Moon on the Crab’s back

Cancer is difficult to trace, the constituent stars are all dim. Hint: click on any of the following photographs and a new page will open with a larger resolution image. What is striking in the following photograph are the number of apparently paired stars. Our sun is an exception, it is not part of a star system; even so, most of these pairings are line of sight, not physical star systems. For example, starting from the “red” moon there is a faint star, “Delta” of Cancer. Trace an imaginary line between the moon and Delta, in your mind move the line down and a little to the right to a pair of dim stars, “Nu” and “Gamma” of Cancer (left to right). The two are not a system, being 390 and 181 light years away. Each is a multiple star system in itself as is Delta. The three are on the back of Cancer, with two stars on the upper right being “Alpha” and “Beta”.

A most interesting object of this photograph, well worth the price of binoculars, is between Nu and Gamma and a little higher, towards the moon. It was what I saw the first time viewing this photograph: a cluster of stars called “The Beehive.” This was how I identified the location of the moon on the back of this crab.

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Click photograph for a higher resolution version
Total Lunar Eclipse and Surrounding Sky with labels for primary element of the Cancer constellation

For the following photograph I cut/pasted/enlarged a square with the (enhanced) Moon, Delta. Nu and Gamma, below, with the Beehive between them. See that the stars, though “fuzzy”, have colors. Delta is a orange giant, also known as the “Southern Donkey”. Gamma, the “Northern Donkey,” and NU are white. The back of the Crab holds a two donkeys eating from a manger, a Galactic Stellar Cluster name “The Beehive.” This night the moon joined the feast.

Click photograph for a higher resolution image
“Beehive” with Total Lunar Eclipse with labels for primary elements of Cancer Constellation

The Beehive

With binoculars (or telescope with a wide field eyepiece), the Beehive is a glorious spectacle of 1,000 gravitationally bound stars, a mixture of colors from blue to red. It was one of the first objects Galileo viewed through the telescope, picking out 40 stars. In later years it was here we found the first planets orbiting sun-like (i.e. having the characteristics of our yellow star) stars within a stellar cluster. In spite of being 600+ light years distant the Beehive was known since ancient times, being visible without a telescope in clear, dark skies.

The Total Eclipse

A glorious moon at full totality is captured in the following two photographs. I used the dslr at 3200 ISO with the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L lens at 300 mm. Setting the exposure area to the Moon, the exposure was 3.2 seconds.

In the first photograph, I especially enjoy the effect modeling of the shadows does to make the disk appear round. The field of view does not include Delta, Gamma, Nu or the Beehive. At this time I was not aware how close the Beehive was, or even that the Moon was in Cancer. The beauty of the moon floating among the stars is apparent.

Click photograph for larger image
Click photograph for larger image

Click link for the first post of this series 

Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Autumn Wonder

Cornell Botanical Gardens

“Cornell Botanic Gardens is a living museum with a mature botanic garden and arboretum—part of what makes Cornell one of the most beautiful campuses anywhere. We steward over 3,600 acres of biologically diverse landscapes that represent the full range of ecological communities found in the Finger Lakes region.” — from their web site

Pam and I need venture no farther than across the valley, from West to East Hill, for an experience of autumn in all its glory. These IPhone 7 photographs and videos are from a recent visit.

We took in the artistry of the railing, the stone steps, gentle curves.

I marveled at the absence of Gypsy Moth egg masses on the Oak trunks, in spite of evident though modest leaf damage.

Houston Pond is visible in several of the “Buena Vista” images…..

Houston Pond reflections from the pavilion

Another version of reflections from Houston Pond taken from pavilion

“No Place Like Home” — Back on West Hill, our Japanese Maple was waiting for us.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Torr Head Stories VI

Down and Down

Weathered masonry at the height of Torr Head was there to serve the custom house and as support for a spotting station where ships transiting the Strait of Moyle (Irish Sruth na Maoile), the 12 miles of water to the Mull of Kintyre.

Lloyd’s of London, vitally interested in the appearance of ships’ progress crossing the oceans, had notice of passage via semaphore (and, later, Marconi’s “wireless”). Destination ports were copied in.

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Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Torr Head Stories V

The Way South –

Scottish influences touched the landscape covered by yesterday’s post, today we continue on this subject with these south facing views from Torr Head. The far ridge of Torrcor marks Loughan Bay.

A townland on the other side of Torrcor hill (and townland) has an eponymous ruin, Altagore Cashel. Mores the pity we did not visit this site, a thick drystone enclosing wall from the 5th century (you can see photographs from another site at this link). Cashel is from the Irish Caiseal, a circular, defensive fort (“ring fort”).

Books such as “Antrim and Argyll: Some Aspects of the Connections” tell of connections over the millennia, clan associations between the islands and ring forts such as Altagore Cashel.

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Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Torr Head Stories IV

Salmon Run

Late spring and summer, weekdays, a net is stretched across the bay to catch salmon nosing up the coast, searching for their home spawning stream, here called Altmore Burn. “Burn” is a Scottish term for a fresh water source, evidence of the influence 12 miles across the north channel.

The small harbor seen here from Torr Head is for the salmon fishery. Small boats will seek shelter here from the wind and tides strong enough to roar in passing the Head, like a fast flowing river.

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Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Autumn Ithaca

Cass Park

Friday night baseball for Pam and I means keeping up with grandson Daryoush’s achievements on the field. He’s come a long way this season. Best viewed on large 4K HD screen with surround sound.

The beginning features a minute or so of our glorious autumn foliage. A hot air balloon also makes an appearance, “watch for it.”

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Torr Head Stories III

Neolithic Passage Tomb

Taking in a flower meadow, foreground, coaster sheep pastures, the photograph, below, looks north from Torr Head. The high hill, midground, is Greenanmore, notable for a the largest passage tomb of the Antrim Glens. Locally known as “Barrach’s Tomb,” for the Red Branch knight of the 1st Century AD fort on Torr Head, tree ring research of the mid-20th Century dates these tombs in the neolithic The hilltop passage tomb was an ancient relic when the mortar of Barrach’s Torr Head fort was drying.

When I enlarge the original photograph, visible on the ridge is a decommissioned Cold War listening post, the tomb is near that. The distant land across the North Channel water is Rathlin Island.

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Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Torr Head Stories II

Ancient Castles and Raithlin Island

Knights of the Red Branch appear towards the end of “Deirdre and the sons of Uisneach”, a tale from 1st century AD Ireland, as protectors of the lovers Dierdre and one of the sons of Uisneach, named Naoise. The two fled to Rathlin Island, seen in the distance in the following photograph.

From Rathlin Island they passed over the Irish Sea to Scotland where they lived happily for a term of years.

Click me for an earlier Torr Head post “A Bit About Torr Head.”

Barrach’s fort no longer exists, a Coast Guard Station was built over the site. There are other intact ruins on this picturesque coast. Here is one close to the Giant’s Causeway, Dunseverick Castle.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Torr Head Stories I

Mysterious Barrach, Knight of the Red Branch

Torr in Irish is a steep rocky height. Likewise, Corr means odd, uneven, rounder, convex, curved, peaked, projecting, smooth. Combined Torcorr is the townland where we stopped on the Torr Road, halted by our wonder at this sight.

In the distance, Torr Head projects into North Channel, the closest land to Scotland. Following the coast, the cliffs in front of Torr Head are home to numerous sea birds such as Fulmars (family Procellariidae) nad Oystercatchers (family Haematopodiadae). Along the rock beaches next Eider Ducks (genus Somateria). You might see the Common Buzzard (species Buto buteo).

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Click me for an earlier Torr Head post “A Bit About Torr Head.”

In the following photograph Torr Head seen from immediately above. I stand on the ancient site of Barrach’s fort, a knight of the Red Branch. After some internet research I cannot find another reference to this knight, other than the information placard on Torr Head.

A Bit About Coolranny Townland

Neat and tidy

2014, the count of townlands on and around the island of Ireland was 61,098 with most of Irish Gaelic origin predating the Norman invasion, first recorded in 12 century church records. The names have a pride of place reflected in the beauty of the namestones along Torr Road.

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The 82 acres of Coolranny forms a slice of land running from a ridge to Loughan Bay off the North Channel of the Irish Sea across from Scotland.

See this post for a description of wildflowers flowering here in the month of June.

A spic and span cottage on Torr Road, maybe the rectory for the Saint Mary’s Star of the Sea church.

An informative placard.

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Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills