the moon and the stars

During night, the soft salty sea usually turns calm; disturbed only by boats and ships, but the sea itself is very quite, very calm compared to daytime. On thursday night, the sky was partly covered with clouds. Friday and saturday nights were clear. Despite the powerful light from the moon, I managed to catch a glimpse of a meteor. Only one. But still. One. The moonlight, though, is amazing. I’m used to how the moon appears in the city — a white-yellow disc, a big cheese in a sky that’s not sufficiently dark anyway. You don’t have a sense that lots of light is reflected off of its surface and towards the earth. You don’t get to see how it reflects again, for example on the black surfaces of water.

(It’s a pity, but I’ve found no useful translation of the word ‘fjärd’. What you see on the photo above is a ‘fjärd’. You find them in the archipelago, in the area of islands where Stockholm meets the Baltic sea; on the photo, it looks like it’s land across the ‘fjärd’, but it’s really just small islands. Anyway, this particular ‘fjärd’ is quite large, and quite important, because it’s an important route.)  This, on a clear night, is nothing but the moon reflecting on a tiny wooden cabin (well, it’s hardly more than a shed; a lovely little shed, with a lovely view over the sea, nonetheless) — no flash, nothing:

Naturally, this holds fascination for me. Mostly, I guess, because I am a city person; I’ve lived all my life in Stockholm, where the moon just doesn’t matter as a source of light. In the countryside, it makes all the difference in the world. It makes it possible to see — an observation that would strike any 19th century peasant as trite, it’s pointing out the bloody obvious. Though it’s less obvious to a modern me; I marvel at the force of its light. The sky is pitch-black, but with the help of the moon, you don’t need a flashlight. And, yes, I only obsess about this because it amazea me incredibly… because I have so little experience of it. A few weeks in the countryside in Småland as a child. That’s about it. I remember the darkness there, and the stars. Since, I’ve seen nothing of this kind. And the island is really to close to the city. To see the stars properly, you need to get further away from the town, to the big woods or perhaps to the north or out on the sea in aboat. One day, I want to do that. Just to see what the starry sky looked like to people way back when they didn’t live in cities, and before artificial light made the dark nights vanish.

Night sky, sunday after midnight; august 14, at around 1 am.

9 thoughts on “the moon and the stars

  1. My husband is an amateur astronomer and on a constant quest for “dark sky.” (Some observing can be done in the city, but not much.) We have a farm about 2 hours from the city where he does most of his observing, and even out there development has steadily eroded the darkness so that one doesn’t quite get the darkness that your 19th century peasant knew, before electricity, but it’s closer. Our lives revolve around the dark sky-no moon dates on the calendar.

  2. (I fix it when the computer is on.)

    Cool! We’re thinking of getting one of those things to watch stars through. A small telescope of some kind.

    We’re very close to Stockholm. Which is both fortunate and unfortunate. My dream now is to have a boat because that would make it possible to go a bit further away from civilization. But going far enough out in the wilderness in Sweden requires a car.

    The place I spent some time as a child actually didn’t have electricity (a hundred years ago, the people who lived there lived off their lands… as well as they could… so there were small and poor forest farms). You had to use gas lamps! And every other electric gadget ran on bottled gas too. But there were small villages not that far away where they had electricity. Still, it was very dark. Much darker than this.

    I’m planning to go star gazing when there isn’t a full moon though. It will be much darker then, even if Stockholm and its suburbs is a bit too close by.

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