Natural La Jolla: Night sky a blanket of stars during blackout

Palm trees wave in the slight breeze in darkened La Jolla. Photos by Jeremy W. Smith
Palm trees wave in the slight breeze in darkened La Jolla. Photos by Jeremy W. Smith

By Kelly Stewart

Although a bit of a bother for the commute home (or a nightmare depending on where you live), the Sept. 8 blackout gave us a unique and unplanned look at our world without artificial light.

Once we were safely home and our emergency plans were in effect (some of us thinking that we should have made an emergency plan previously), there was little to do apart from enjoy the company of friends by candlelight. If you did venture out, the night sky was really beautiful in the early hours of evening before the clouds moved in.

The nearly full moon cast ethereal light on streets and buildings and to the northwest, the Big Dipper (and Little Dipper) could clearly be seen, along with Polaris, the North Star. The Big Dipper (Ursa Major) has seven bright stars, and has attracted the attention of star-gazing humans for millennia. Some say it looks like a mother bear (the four stars of the ladle), with her three cubs following (the 3 stars of the handle). The Big Dipper has long been used to locate Polaris by drawing an imaginary line through the 2 stars of the outer part of the ladle and then upward about five times that distance.

A great website for identifying stars in the night sky from any location worldwide may be found at astroviewer.com. It may be some time though, before we experience another night like Sept. 8 and can see the stars so clearly from La Jolla.

   
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