Monday, April 07, 2008

Have you ever seen the Milky Way? Eyre Bird Observatory

Probably won't get an opportunity to blog again till we are back in Perth, so two posts today.

This one is still about the Eyre Bird Observatory.

While having meals on the verandah, we watched the birds come down to the water holes to drink – evil-looking ravens, flamboyant Major Mitchell Cockatoos posturing with their crests to frighten off the former, Silver-eyes, numerous honey-eaters, currawongs, and the magnificent Brush Bronzewing pigeons, the latter absurdly regal for such cowards. They would stalk in, backtracking every time there was an unexpected noise or movement, as if in some pointless, stately dance. Sometimes their nervous agitation was such they flew away without drinking.

All this, just a couple of metres away from where we sat, entranced, at our meal or coffee.

We went for lots of walks – down to the sea, through the woodlands, over the dunes.

On our second night there, when I went outside in the middle of the night, the sky was clear, the night moonless. And in the desert air, I saw something I haven’t seen for years, a sight few ever see these days. I saw the Milky Way.

Yes, I know many of you will say you have, but unless you have stood under a desert sky on a moonless night when the ONLY light is that of the stars – you won’t really know what I mean. I have never seen this in Malaysia, for example, because there is always too much water vapour in the air. You never see it in any city anywhere either, because the air is too polluted and the competition from other light sources too intense.

The stars blazed – there is no other word for it – large and glitteringly brilliant in a band across the sky – and through it all the milky clouds of the galaxy are entwined (formed, I suppose, of the myriad of distant stars too small to be seen with the naked eye). These clouds are mist on a trail of cut diamonds, and when you see it, you know why it earned the name Milky Way.

Alas, few people see it any more. We pay a price for progress.

6 comments:

Jason said...

It was a real shock for me the first time I saw the Milky Way properly, while on holiday on Dunk Island. It was amazingly beautiful, and remarkable just how little we really see of the night sky due to light pollution.

It's a strong argument for living far, far away from a city!

Jo said...

Yes, I have seen the Milky Way when I was way up north in Canada quite a few years ago. Fantastic sight. I also saw the Aurora Borealis whilst up thataway too. Another sight worth seeing.

I am vicariously enjoying your trip Glenda and thanks so much for sharing the wonderful pictures with us. Although I think you could have kept the ravens LOL

Peter said...

I know what you mean Glenda. When I was in the Navy in the middle of the ocean on moonless nights the sky just blazed with starlight. You could also clearly see meteors and satellites.

Thanks for the great pictures and commentary. I felt like I was taking a holiday with you.

Silver Fox said...

Lovely camping in the middle of nowhere for that exact reason... stars, and lots of them!

Just wondering why ravens are evil-looking? I think they are gorgeous birds, the way the colours change in their feathers...

It isn't their fault Hollywood has corrupted their image!

Forge said...

Only beter sight of it I've had than out in the desert (my parents live in outback Qld) is from the top of a 4500m mountain in PNG.

Get the bulk of the atmsophere out of the way and it comes to life even more..

Anonymous said...

You look like you are having well-deserved fun, Glenda. And I know that you are enjoying being with your sister for real quality time.

In Murrumbateman we used to get amazing views of the Milky Way but I'm sure what you are seeing is even more incredible. There are so many stars visible that it is difficult to get your bearings.

I have been thinking about you lately too and wondering when you'll be in email contact again.

Hugs Donna