Bad news. On Sunday night, I had to turn the air conditioning on.
I feel like I’ve failed myself. Last year I made it until May 1 without having to crank the a/c, but this year I crumbled early. Of course yesterday a cold front came through, so the a/c went back off as quickly as it came on, but alas, I am defeated. Sunday night was just too warm, and too muggy. Feeling sticky in my 80 degree, Houston humidity soaked apartment was just no fun.
The stars have been really great the past few nights, or actually, the planets have been really great. I took a look at them Friday night while talking to Dad, and checked them out again last night as I walked the trails in Challenger Park (which, thankfully, are no worse for the wear after yesterday’s light rain). I haven’t managed to spot Mercury because of clouds on the horizon, which is disappointing because I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen Mercury! But Venus, Mars, the moon, Saturn, and Jupiter are all lined up and shining like diamonds.
Those of you who might be interested should take a look tonight. Mercury is almost due west, very low on the horizon and only visible just after sunset–it sets quickly. Venus is very bright, halfway up in the western sky. Mars is dimmer, but definitely reddish, a bit higher up than Venus. The moon is overhead, as is Saturn, but Saturn is a bit faint. With binoculars though, you might be able to make out a faintly oblong shape, from the rings. Jupiter is very bright in the east-southeastern sky. (For reference on finding Saturn, tonight the moon will be almost halfway between it and Jupiter.)
On Friday night, while I was sitting next to my garage looking at Jupiter with binoculars trying to see the moons, my neighbor came home. She gave me a funny look as she got out of her car, so I said “I’m looking at the planets.” She was sounded a bit interested, so I pointed out Venus and Mars and Saturn and Jupiter (Mercury, dratted thing, was behind clouds) and her voice took on an awed tone. “Wow! They look just like stars! I didn’t know that!” she said. I almost laughed, but managed to hold it in while I told her, yes, but that they’re often brighter than the brightest star, and that they start to look different through binoculars.
When I was little, I used to lie on the tennis courts behind our house with Dad, bundled up against the winter cold as we looked at the stars. When I was in 3rd grade, my science project was about the constellations. Summer vacations at the farm provided great dark skies for stargazing. When I was in high school, I got up early one morning to join Dad in looking for the tethered satellite that broke free from the space shuttle, and to look at comet Hyakutake. Now I help shoot other things up there, and bring stuff down safely.
My neighbor surprised me. When you’ve spent your whole life looking up, it’s easy to forget that not everyone does.