When Stars Touch The Earth

Vega, the bright star near the  bottom and the Northern Cross are reflected in a rain-filled pothole in a dirt road north of Duluth earlier this week. Bob King

A couple nights ago I spent several hours looking at one the night sky’s finest deep sky objects, the Great Hercules Cluster, along with a bunch of faint galaxies you can hop to from the cluster. If you’re interested in exploring this area of the sky with your telescope, you can read about it here.

Venus gleams below Pollux (left) and Castor in Gemini in twilight earlier this week. Bob King

Whenever I’m out, there’s always something interesting to photograph in the night sky. Venus, Jupiter, the Milky Way, the satellites. The list goes on. While setting up the telescope I was taken by a puddleful of stars on a nearby dirt road. The road was a mess, barely driveable, but a huge pothole cradled the reflection of the stars overhead, transforming it into a thing of beauty.

Jupiter shines above Libra’s brightest star Zubenelgenubi. The head of the scorpion (Scorpius) and its bright, red star Antares shines off to the left. This is the scene facing south at nightfall in early June. Bob King

In appearance and reality, stars touch the Earth. Stars are responsible for the dirt that makes the roads that are potholed by traffic that fill with water that reflect the stars back up to the sky. Hydrogen, one of the main ingredients of water and many other important molecules, originated in the Big Bang. But everything heavier than lithium (element #3) was cooked up in the interiors of the suns that populate the night sky and illuminate the estimated 2 trillion galaxies out there.

Saturn appears low in the southeastern sky around 11 o’clock local time. You can use the planet to help point you to rich variety of deep sky objects. All the ones I’ve labeled are visible in a pair of 35mm or larger binoculars. The starcloud is an amazing sight — jammed with stars when seen from a dark sky site! Bob King

Like a child using scrap wood and cardboard to build a fort, stars take simpler elements and combine them into more complex ones using the pressure and heat in their cores. Elements like carbon and oxygen. Large or overly massive stars can explode as supernovae, creating more complex elements such as gold and uranium. Released into space, all of it gets caught up in vast molecular clouds that gravitationally collapse to create new stars and planets.

And you know what that means? More puddles of course!

4 Responses

  1. kevan Hubbard

    An amazing picture of the stars reflected in the puddle. I often stargaze by a man made canal and love looking at the brighter stars,planets and moon reflected in the water.

      1. Richard Keen

        Thanks to a book I read 50+ years ago, I always see Martians when I look at nighttime reflections from puddles and, dare I say, canals…
        “The Martians were there – in the canal – reflected in the water…. The Martians stared back up at them for a long, long silent time from the rippling water….”
        — The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury)
        Great story, Bob. You caught the magic of reflections!

        1. astrobob

          Hi Richard,

          Thank you! What a fantastic passage and so fitting. Thanks for that. I read that wonderful book just about the same time you did 🙂

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