The sky is where it’s all at for the moment – whether during the day or at night. We have been enjoying luminous days with improbably blue skies for the past few days. The evenings are, alas, starting to draw in already – nightfall comes three-four minutes earlier every day – but the clarity of the night sky makes the stars stand out like diamonds against velvet.
We were just finishing our dinner outside yesterday evening when we heard a sporadic puffing sound approaching, a bit like a dragon with asthma. We’ve heard this before and knew immediately that it was a montgolfière (hot air balloon).
The last time, one came past very early in the morning and we shot out of bed to watch it go past but I didn’t have time to fetch my camera. This time, I sprinted (as far as one can at my age) upstairs and grabbed it, taking a shot through the window and then several from outside.
I don’t think I have ever seen a hot air balloon so close and it came from an unusual direction. It can’t have been more than 50-75 metres up but, with successive bursts of gas, it soon gained height and sailed away in its stately fashion.
I’ve never been up in a montgolfière (so called after its inventors – see my post here) but feel it must be a very civilised way to travel, provided you don’t come down to earth with a bump unexpectedly.
Once the sun has set, the Milky Way arches across the sky and you get a sense of just how small we are in the scheme of things. After all, the Milky Way is our home galaxy but around 100 billion more of them are estimated to exist across the known universe. Thanks to the lack of light pollution down here and the clear skies at this time of year, the stars and the constellations are wonderfully distinct.
On Sunday night, we dined outside with friends at their house under a sky without a cloud. As night fell, we were treated to a display of étoiles filantes (shooting stars), since this is the time of year when the earth crosses the belt of small meteors, the debris of comet Swift-Tuttle. Known as the Perseids, they rapidly burn up in the atmosphere, leaving a short-lived silvery trail. The lack of light pollution enhanced our view of them.
We all got cricks in the neck as we craned to look at them. Sometimes, several seared across the sky at once but mostly we had to wait a few minutes between each one. The sky is so big, of course, that you can’t look everywhere at once.
They move so swiftly that you can’t photograph them without a much faster shutter speed than my camera could manage. I did make several wishes, though, which I’m not prepared to divulge.
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