Lightning, Fireflies, Mosquitos And Joy


A cumulominbus thunderhead is lit from within by lightning as it slowly floats in front of the stars of Sagittarius last night. Details: 150mm lens at f/2.8, 15 second time exposure at ISO 1600. Photo: Bob King

There were mosquitos everywhere but I found myself falling in love with summer. Silent explosions of lightning flashed along the south shore of Lake Superior last night. Astronomically speaking, the thunderclouds moved through eastern Sagittarius toward Capricornus. Although they later disappeared over the horizon, their lightning lit up the sky in sudden blasts until well past midnight.


Fireflies, mostly males, leave trails of light as they dance over the dark landscape Tuesday night. The stars left trails during the long time exposure; the bright one at top left is the planet Jupiter. Details: 70mm lens at f/2.8, ~3 minute time exposure at ISO 1600. Photo: Bob King

Even in twilight, the fireflies’ quieter lights dotted the fading contours of the landscape. By nightfall, they were thick. Their passion knew no bounds. Attracted to my flashlight, I had to repeatedly brush them off my sleeves. What the photos don’t show are the mosquitos that did their best to unnerve me as I pushed the telescope from comet to cluster to galaxy. After a half hour I stopped paying attention to the whine of their wings and enjoyed the night.

Very late I took off my coat and let the warm breeze and the terrific smells it carried take me away. Winter seemed as far as Antarctica. The hardest thing to do was go to bed — all I wanted was like a little kid to stay up all night.

With the new LCROSS mission (see yesterday’s blog) in the news lately, I thought you’d enjoy seeing the final footage from the Japanese Kaguya (KAH-goo-ya) spacecraft before it plunged to the lunar surface. As it moves ever closer, the view becomes ever more dramatic.

6 Responses

  1. Larry

    I was out taking in the lightning, fireflies, satellites, a few clusters and nebulas last night as well. For a minute I thought there was something wrong with my telescope when I thought Rhea was Titan. “That should be a lot brighter” I thought until I realized Titan was hiding behind Saturn. I particularly enjoyed Xi, it was a very nice double in the scope. The humidity made me sweat just bending down to look into the eyepiece. I think the mosquitoes were enjoying me as much as I was enjoying the evening… After a while I just have to learn to ignore them.

  2. Rhino

    I too was out out last night fighting the mosquitoes and the heat. I checked out Saturn before Leo nose dives into the horizon. I also spent some time with the Ring Nebula and Albireo again. I also found two more clusters M4 and M56. The latter was by accident as I was panning the scope through the area. Tried out my new-to-me Lumicon UHC filter on Ring Nebula. It helped bring it out of the background, but it takes some time getting use to. The stars around it are a lot dimmer.

  3. astrobob

    Hey guys, nice to know I wasn’t the only one getting chewed on. It was a fine night to be out. Sounds like you’re both navigating the sky like pros. M4 is one of my favorites Rhino because it’s so huge and easy to resolve. The UHC was a great purchase — try it on the Veil Nebula in Cygnus. You’ll be amazed at the sight. Just a question — what do you and others reading this recommend for a good mosquito repellant?

  4. DawnMarie

    Mosquito repellant: Both my grandmothers swear by Avon’s SSS bath oil, original scent (spray or rub on skin). Also, I’ve read and seen in action using Listerene, the orange variety. Generic brand would work fine. Dump into spray bottle and spray the ground of the area you are going to be sitting/standing/playing in. We tried it Memorial wknd while camping, spraying it all over the campsite and we did not get bit, but that could have been because it was earlier in the year too. Haven’t had a chance to try it anywhere else yet, but alot of people (one of them is one of my grandmothers) swear by it!

  5. Larry

    I have been using the same can of bug spray in town here for the last 6-7 years. I don’t go through a lot at home but did indeed need it last night, and will probably again tonight.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/zeito414/3659016176/

    It’s an old can of Deep Woods Off, I can’t remember why the label got removed. All the way from the year two thousand…

  6. astrobob

    Thanks guys for your suggestions. I’m using a Deep Woods off pump bottle (can’t remember how much DEET it contains) but it only keeps bugs away from maybe a half hour at a time. The higher the DEET the better but at a certain point, it’ll remove the paint from things you touch or soften up plastics. Sam Cook here at the newspaper sprays his repellant on the backs of his hands and then wipes his face and neck with them. That way he keeps his palms free from contamination.

Comments are closed.