Cinco d'Mayo had some super special effects this year.
May 2012 was the month of the Super Moon and it certainly was a dramatic sight. Because of favorable weather patterns and our dark sky policy here in The Sea Ranch, this is the perfect place to star gaze. All of our external lights are kept to a minimum so that the heavens are always in easy reach just out past the pine trees in our front yard. On Cinco d'Mayo this year, we got an extra special treat when the elliptical circuit of the moon brought the romantic orb closer to the earth than normal. (Shortly after the sun went down on Sunday night, we were told that the full moon was just 221,802 miles from our historic white barn.) The astronomers call it a perigee moon and say that it appears to be 14% larger and 30% brighter than normal, but for us it was merely another good excuse to admire the natural world that is all around us here in The Sea Ranch. Some of us contented ourselves with going out and admiring the phenomenon, others photographed it, and I would imagine that a few might be working on it in oil on canvas or perhaps pastels on a double elephant sheet of watercolor paper. (We have a couple of important art shows coming up in the not too distant future.)
A few weeks after being super, the moon came back at the far end of it's elliptical wanderings and gave us what the sky watchers call an annular eclipse, during which part of the sun was blocked by the moon. That was pretty dramatic, as well, what with the light changing color and going spooky dim for a few minutes. We were advised not to look directly at the "ring of fire" lest we damage our eyes. We were told to look down under the forest canopy instead. The tiny spaces between the leaves in our trees acted as lenses and lo, and behold, we were to all intents and purposes, suddenly standing inside of a gigantic pinhole camera. A myriad of small crescent shaped beams of light were being cast all around us. The effect was unreal. You could actually watch the crescents change size and shape as the moon moved slowly across the face of the sun and the eclipse progressed. This picture is of one of the crescents which was cast on the trunk of a tree. You can clearly see the dark orb of the moon cutting into the bright sphere of the sun. Everything was happening in slow motion, the light dimmed and the birds went silent. You could easily understand why primitive cultures would get concerned about what was going on as they watched the moon eat the sun.
No need to go visit a planetarium in a big city or watch these kinds of things on the internet or your television set. Our sky is the ultimate planetarium and the heavens are closer here in The Sea Ranch than they are in town. Next time you are up this way, all you have to do is step outside for a stroll after dinner and you'll see what I am talking about. Most nights you won't even need the moon to see where you are going. The stars will be bright enough all by themselves.
In my March newsletter our pelagic cormorants were courting.
A lot has happened since. The nests have been built and they are now sitting on eggs.