A week ago my wife and I traveled to paradise which also goes by the name of Maui, one of the Hawaiian islands. We were there to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary toasting with Mai Tais between snorkeling, eating and hiking and thousand other things you can do on the island.
Whenever I travel I keep an eye on the sky; Maui, at latitude 21 degrees north, offered a whole new perspective. That’s practically southern hemisphere compared to my home town Duluth, Minn. at 47 degrees north.
Luckily I got a window seat on the trip from LA to Hawaii. As the plane followed the Earth’s curve south, new stars otherwise hidden by the southern horizon crept into view. The waning gibbous moon illuminated clouds far below us that blanketed the dark ocean.
Scrunching my face against the window I could see Grus the Crane, Indus the Indian and even Alpha Pavonis, the brightest star of the Pavo the Peacock. Later that night before going to bed, brilliant Achernar – the star at the end of the river Eridanus – twinkled low over the lulling waves of the Pacific.
Venus was much higher in the sky than seen in Duluth and shone with amazing brilliance in a black sky long after sunset. Many restaurants served dinner cafe-style in the open air, making the planet a constant companion over fish tacos and macadamia nut desserts.
Familiar constellations like the Northern Cross, Lyra and Aquila that compose the Summer Triangle were all kittywampus, tilted over to the north at a alien angle. The Big Dipper? Gone. No need to look – it lay hidden below the northern horizon. Polaris the North Star stood just 21 degrees (two fists) high in the north, equal to the Maui’s latitude. Seeing it reduced to palm tree level brought home how far we’d traveled across the planet.
Because of the drastic time change coming from the Midwest (5 hours) we constantly arose fully awake around 5 a.m. local time, perfect for catching Jupiter overhead and Orion nearly as high. I thrilled to seeing Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky after Sirius, sparkle in the southern sky as dawn approached.
This star is always hidden from view unless you live in the southern U.S. or points south.
As long as we were awake, a stroll on the beach at sunrise was too easy to pass up. We faced west – good for sunsets only – but watching the moon’s reflection in the water as Earth’s purple shadow faded withdrew from the western horizon with the advancing sun was fine compensation.
Coming home is always difficult when you fall in love with a place. I’m still trying to get back into my time zone and both of us constantly feel cold. I wonder why. Gone are Grus, Pavo and Canopus. But to experience a different part of the stellar universe for a few nights was a joy. And now I’m inspired to do it all over again.