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An unexpected treat…

Weathermen. You’ve gotta love ‘em, eh? They stand up there, on our TVs, telling us, oh-so confidently, that the weather will be this, or that, and we are programmed from an early age to believe them, because, well, they have all that gear, righ? The big screen behind them with its fancy graphics… symbols for cloud, and rain, and sunshine… temperatures, isobars, wind speeds, wind chill factors… they’re like magicians! They can travel forwards in Time, predict the future! They’re… amazing

Ha. <— said in a sarcastic, sneering tone.

Yesterday, all I heard, and saw, all day, was that last night Cumbria would be covered in coud, top to bottom, side to side, and that if you wanted to see any clear sky you’d have to travel east. Laura Tobin – you know, the pretty, smily, dark-haired one on the Beeb who looks a bit like the Duchess of Cambridge – looked me straight in the eye, through my telly, and told me, every time she spoke to me, that if I wanted to see “the planets” I’d have to “go to the east”. I considered it, I really did. I trusted her. After all, Venus and Jupiter were getting closer in the sky every minute, and the Cumbrian weather had been doing its best this past week to totally hack me off by covering my sky in cloud, robbing me of the chance to see the most beautiful planetary conjunction for years. So I took Laura at her word and wondered about heading out of Cumbria, in search of brighter skies…

6.30: I’m trekking up to Kendal Castle again, camera, tripod and binocs slung over my shoulder, with Venus shining behind me in the twilight, dimmed a little by some high haze but definitely not hidden by cloud.

Never have I been happier to have a weatherman proved absolutely, totally, 1000% wrong.

When I look back on The Great Planetary Conjunction of 2012 I think I’ll probably consider last night to be my best night. Everything just went right. There was a little bit of haze in the sky, just enough to surround the two planets in soft haloes; there was no-one else up at the Castle bugging me; my camera worked perfectly; my batteries didn’t run out; I didn’t fall flat on my *** in the mud, although parts of the castle grounds are so muddy, so slippy they could have filmed scenes for Warhorse up there. Venus and Jupiter blazed above town like twin jewels fthe whole time I was there, and, opposite them in the sky, Mars was a beautiful orange candle flame shining above the castle…

And at one point I stood there, in the middle of the castle ruins, alone, in the peace and quiet of an early spring evening, just savouring it, just drinking in the beauty and magic of it all; wondering what it would have been like to stand in that exact same spot centuries before, when the castle was a home, with hearths and candles flickering in its drafty rooms; wondering of any of the people of Kendal all those years ago had stood where I was standing, looking at two planets shining together in the sky…

As I posted recently, sometimes it’s easy to hate astronomy, with all its frustrations and disappointments. Buit sometimes you catch yourself falling in love with it all over again, feeling that giggly flutter in your chest when you stand on your own in the dark looking at something… beautiful…

That’s how I felt last night. And I came home thinking that even if it is cloudy on Tuesday night, when Venus and Jupiter are at their closest, then I had at least one perfect night with the two planets before they drifted silently apart again.

So, here are the pictures I took. I hope you like them.

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2 Responses

  1. Fantastic, magnificent, wonderful, and thanks for these. What a night.

  2. Good effort Stu, well done! I looked out of my window and saw nothing but cloud. Your great photoshoot up at the castle shows how deceptive the view from the window can be, especially in Kendal.

    Looking forward to this Sunday evening, if the forecasters have got it right this time…

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