Frivolity

Friday, March 13, 2020

North Coast Night Lights: Raptors at Chapman’s Gem and Mineral

Posted By on Fri, Mar 13, 2020 at 11:52 AM

A marauding pack of velociraptors outside of Chapman’s Gem and Mineral Shop south of Fortuna, Humboldt County, California. Photo from March 6, 2020. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A marauding pack of velociraptors outside of Chapman’s Gem and Mineral Shop south of Fortuna, Humboldt County, California. Photo from March 6, 2020.
Since childhood, dinosaurs have held a fascination for me. If dinosaurs roamed the earth today, my photo stories would probably be about them or, perhaps more likely, about dinosaurs at night.

Alas, they are an exceedingly rare breed and the opportunities to photograph them, or even to see them at all, are few and far between. As a matter of fact, until recently I had never had any luck catching a dinosaur on film or digital, though I have tried; I’ve had more luck photographing meteors.

It turned out I needed to rethink my approach. I am no wildlife stalker and, for all my efforts to track down a dinosaur, I had come up empty every time. I hadn’t failed, I’d simply discovered a number of ways how not to do it, and it was time to regroup. I would try a passive approach next and toward that end I purchased a couple of high quality trail cams. If I could determine where dinosaurs roamed, I reasoned, I might be able to catch some candid photographs up close of the creatures in their native habitats.

For months I set my dinosaur trail cams out in those most likely of habitats for these prehistoric beasts: primordial old growth redwood groves. But I got nothing.

Of course, I captured the usual bears, mountain lions, bobcats and the like, but nothing out of the ordinary. The real quarry eluded me. I tried setting my cameras up by streams, near rivers, in prairies, meadows, beaches and sloughs. Nothing. No dinosaurs. Not even in Fern Canyon. I began wondering whether anyone ever sees these creatures.

But I finally caught a break, and naturally at a time when I was least expecting it and not at all trying for it. On my way home one afternoon from collecting my trail cams from an unsuccessful trail watch down near the Avenue of the Giants, I stopped in at Chapman’s Gem and Mineral Shop.

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Friday, March 6, 2020

North Coast Night Lights: Lone Oak and Country Road

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2020 at 1:17 PM

A moonlit oak tree watches the passage of the stars on their nightly journey across the sky near a country road in Humboldt County, California. March 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A moonlit oak tree watches the passage of the stars on their nightly journey across the sky near a country road in Humboldt County, California. March 2019.

In the still of the night, on a ridge top beside a quiet country road, an old oak tree enjoys a long view of valleys and sky. What changes it must have seen as the years turned and the seasons slipped by, day by day and night by night.

Most of us will see the sun cross the sky throughout nearly every day. We know that the stars will also cross at night, but not many of us note their passage through the dark from dusk to dawn. How many nights has the old oak watched as the stars made their slow traverse across the sky? It has seen all the patterns made as the sun, moon, planets and stars rise and set.

Do the stars rise in the east and set in the west as the sun and moon do? The short answer is not exactly, almost oddly enough. As Earth revolves, most of the stars rise and set, but the stars to the north and south arc around the northern and southern axes of our rotation. If we looked out into space perpendicularly to our axis of rotation, the stars we would see would rise in the east and set in the west. The further north or south one looks, the tighter is the arc of the stars.

A moonlit oak tree watches the passage of the stars on their nightly journey across the sky near a country road in Humboldt County, California. March 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A moonlit oak tree watches the passage of the stars on their nightly journey across the sky near a country road in Humboldt County, California. March 2019.


Where we are in the northern hemisphere, we have a view of the northern polar axis, which conveniently sits on a bright star we’ve named Polaris, the North Star. The stars nearest Polaris will travel in a tight circle around it as Earth rotates, never rising or setting at a horizon. The farther out from Polaris the stars are, the wider their circles. Far enough from Polaris the stars’ larger paths take them from one horizon to the other; these stars rise and set. If we were on the equator, the stars due east would rise vertically, and set due west. From our latitude as one’s gaze moves south the apparent motion of the stars follows an arc above the southern horizon; the center of that arc is the southern axis, which we can’t see because it is above the south pole beyond the horizon.

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
The photograph of the oak tree I’m sharing here covers a lot of sky in its wide field of view. The stars near the bottom of the image are in the south, arcing across the sky as they travel around the southern axis below the horizon. The stars at the top of the photograph are traveling in a wide circle around the northern axis, which is out of view above and to the left. The area between the southern arcs and the northern arcs is the celestial equator. Because we are north of Earth’s equator, the celestial equator is in the southern half of the sky; were we on the equator, it would extend from east to west directly overhead.

To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or purchase a print, visit and contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx.

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Monday, February 24, 2020

North Coast Night Lights: Comet Hyakutake

Posted By on Mon, Feb 24, 2020 at 2:07 PM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
Gradually, particle by particle, it grew in size. Through the eons its body filled out, increasing mass infinitesimally with each random mote and flake that settled onto its surface.

In its youth it had prowled the blackness of space on the shadowy fringes of a huge vortex. With others of its kind, it had drifted lazily at a safe distance from the swirling chaos of the maelstrom, observing aloofly the orbits and eddies of ices, metals, rocks and gases in their mad circuits about the new, bright little star at the center.

Masses moving in the unceasing night caressed it with soft tendrils of gravity, tugging and pulling at it gently, continually altering its wanderings until at last it was coaxed into a lazy path downward toward the star at the center of the busy swirl. Eventually, the sun’s own gravitational influence embraced it tenderly and drew it in.

Perhaps never again would it know the relative peace of its birthplace. It had begun a new orbit, a new cycle that would plunge it inward through the busy minefield of giant planets and debris, toward the sun, around it, and back outward again. Over and over again it would repeat this cyclical, 17,000-year-long trek down to the star and back out. During this endless journey, it would be subjected not only to the tortures of the sun’s searing radiation at its closest approach, but to the immense gravitational pulls of the moving planets and the star about which they orbited. Its path would be influenced by the gravity of every body it passed.
Comet Hyakutake glowing with its distinctive greenish hue, as photographed from Fickle Hill Road above Arcata, California. Shot on Ektar 1000 color negative film, this is an in-camera double-exposure: first I photographed Comet Hyakutake. Then, on the same piece of film, I took another photo of my friend’s face in the dark, painting blue light only onto his profile with a tiny flashlight. Can you see his profile looking down toward the left? That is no “Horseshoe Nebula;” it’s his nostril! Above his nostril is the ridge of his eyebrow, and below the nostril are his lips, and at the bottom, his chin. Or maybe you had to be there. Anyway, it was all very cosmic. Humboldt County, California. March, 1996. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Comet Hyakutake glowing with its distinctive greenish hue, as photographed from Fickle Hill Road above Arcata, California. Shot on Ektar 1000 color negative film, this is an in-camera double-exposure: first I photographed Comet Hyakutake. Then, on the same piece of film, I took another photo of my friend’s face in the dark, painting blue light only onto his profile with a tiny flashlight. Can you see his profile looking down toward the left? That is no “Horseshoe Nebula;” it’s his nostril! Above his nostril is the ridge of his eyebrow, and below the nostril are his lips, and at the bottom, his chin. Or maybe you had to be there. Anyway, it was all very cosmic. Humboldt County, California. March, 1996.
Now the comet plunged toward the sun again, the star’s radiation bombarding its crust and boiling away the softer areas across its revolving surface. Pockets of volatile gases burst forth continually under the bombardment, sending streamers and jets outward until the comet’s nucleus was immersed in a fuzzy cloud of its own sloughed materials. Its course was altered ever so slightly with each jet erupting from its surface, with each chunk blasted free. Its long tail took shape as it swung down closer to the sun, the solar wind pushing dust and gas particles away from it and outward from the sun in a long glowing trail.

It passed close to the third planet, closer than it ever had before. It was no stranger to this part of the neighborhood, for the comet had passed that big blue marble many times since it was first dislodged from its old home outside the solar system. The last time it had swung by Earth some 17,000 years before, humanity had comprised a scant few millions of souls. The peopling of the Americas had only recently begun with early migrations from Asia. People had set down their stone tools and gazed in wonder with their naked eyes, or perhaps hid in fear.
This Hyakutake fan art I made from my photo of the comet combined with other photographs of various places and objects I found on California’s North Coast. While I shot the original comet on 35mm film, I photographed the rest of the parts digitally some years later. Created September, 2008. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • This Hyakutake fan art I made from my photo of the comet combined with other photographs of various places and objects I found on California’s North Coast. While I shot the original comet on 35mm film, I photographed the rest of the parts digitally some years later. Created September, 2008.
Now, as Comet Hyakutake approached our planet again, Earth’s billions of inhabitants trained on it the latest technological instruments and lenses that the science of the late 20th century had to offer. Yet, advanced as we thought ourselves to be, this spectacular comet had come out of nowhere. We had failed to even notice it until it was fewer than three months from its peak visibility; it was discovered in January of 1996, and peaked by late March. And none of us will ever see that comet again.

I’m ready for another good comet.

Note: I’m not a scientist, and where informed scientific theory failed me — or rather where I failed science — I substituted with good old-fashioned creative license. We can call it science fiction. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or peer into its past, visit or contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx .
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Friday, January 24, 2020

North Coast Night Lights: Art Utility Boxes of Eureka: Marine Life Triptych

Posted By on Fri, Jan 24, 2020 at 4:29 PM

DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
Wintertime has dampened my nighttime roaming and kept my photography a little closer to home of late. But as a famous photographer once said, though I can’t recall who it was, and I’m afraid I must paraphrase, “You can find plenty of beauty to photograph right in your own backyard.” That idea has stuck with me for decades.

It was easy to dream of faraway places growing up with National Geographic’s fantastic photography from around the world, and I did. But I live in a remarkably beautiful area right here in Northern California and hearing that idea expressed in an early photography class I was taking helped me appreciate the beauty already around me.

I’m usually drawn to the nighttime magic of our gorgeous North Coast’s natural landscape, out where the starry skies glitter overhead without the interruption of humanity’s ground lights. But it is also rewarding to direct some attention a little closer to my home, especially when the weather is inclement. I find myself attracted to the mural paintings on the utility boxes around Eureka, the many instances of public art beautifying the city as part of Eureka’s Strategic Arts Plan (https://www.eurekart.org).

On the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Fifth Street, just outside of Pacific Outfitters, is an undersea triptych painting on a trio of utility boxes that has attracted me for some time. Brought to life by the hand of local painter Dakota Daetwiler, the three-piece work of art creates an undersea world featuring local marine plants and animals in a joyous celebration of life. Dakota worked with the input of Pacific Outfitter management, who she said hoped she would represent the local undersea world off our coast.
Three electrical utility boxes form a canvas for Dakota Daetwiler’s undersea triptych mural featuring local marine life. Find it next to the Pacific Outfitters parking lot at the corner of 5th and Myrtle in Eureka, California. Photographed January 16, 2020. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Three electrical utility boxes form a canvas for Dakota Daetwiler’s undersea triptych mural featuring local marine life. Find it next to the Pacific Outfitters parking lot at the corner of 5th and Myrtle in Eureka, California. Photographed January 16, 2020.
Daetwiler is a self-taught painter born and raised in Humboldt County. Most of her inspiration has come from a fascination with reading. As a kid, she “read hundreds and hundreds of books.” Her artistic journey has rewarded her passion with success but it isn’t always easy to learn on one’s own. Her message to others finding their own way would be to not give up in the face of setbacks.

“This project was a huge learning experience for me,” she told me, “as the first time I put the wrong clear coat on them and almost a year later I ended up having to re-paint them entirely. I was in tears seeing how much they'd deteriorated. But I'm nothing if not persistent!”

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

North Coast Night Lights: Harry the Honorable Hound Dog

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2020 at 2:32 PM

Complete with 3-D ears, tongue and bone, “Harry, my Honorable Hound Dog” watches the cars go by from his spot on Buhne Street at the corner with Harrison Avenue. He never chases, barks or bites. Utility box painting by Benjamin Goulart, photographed on January 1, 2020. Eureka, Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Complete with 3-D ears, tongue and bone, “Harry, my Honorable Hound Dog” watches the cars go by from his spot on Buhne Street at the corner with Harrison Avenue. He never chases, barks or bites. Utility box painting by Benjamin Goulart, photographed on January 1, 2020. Eureka, Humboldt County, California.
Growing up, I didn’t think of Eureka as beautiful. Never mind that I was a kid, and what would I know about that? Maybe I simply wasn’t tapped in to the art scene, I don’t know, but I don’t recall driving down the street and seeing so many interesting art pieces, or art being as accessible in so many venues as now. I remember the larger than life sculptures on the bay side of U.S. Highway 101 north of Eureka. They fascinated the kid I was. But with apologies to the current Eureka in which I live, the feeling that would greet me as a child when my family drove us to town was a depressing dinginess. Permeating everything, standing out from my memories of those times, was the plume of vapor ever rising from the pulp mill on the peninsula, the pall that quite literally put the “reek” in Eureka.

But Eureka has metamorphosed. Now, driving through town one sees many murals, painted utility boxes and sculptures sprinkled about, and despite relying on kid memories for comparison, it feels as though a lot has changed inside Eureka. A great many businesses display local art and the people come out in droves for Arts Alive every month. The transformation of Eureka has largely been organic, changed gradually and inexorably over decades by the huge numbers of creative people living here. I’m glad to be one of them. The city of Eureka itself has helped spur the change, especially recently, and is now one of fourteen officially designated California Cultural Districts.

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Friday, January 3, 2020

North Coast Night Lights: 2019 Night Light in Review

Posted By on Fri, Jan 3, 2020 at 11:03 AM

The stars arc across the sky in their nightly parade in this view looking south from Boat Launch Beach, or Indian Beach, beneath the town of Trinidad, California. The star trails you see are the result of the stars’ motion across the sky during this several-minute exposure of the camera. In summer months the sky in this view would contain the core of our galaxy, the visually richest portion of the Milky Way. January, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The stars arc across the sky in their nightly parade in this view looking south from Boat Launch Beach, or Indian Beach, beneath the town of Trinidad, California. The star trails you see are the result of the stars’ motion across the sky during this several-minute exposure of the camera. In summer months the sky in this view would contain the core of our galaxy, the visually richest portion of the Milky Way. January, 2019.
We live in the Milky Way galaxy. It’s a flattened pinwheel shape, and our solar system is out on one of the arms. Our galaxy gets its name from the bright band of stars called the Milky Way, which we can see stretching across the night sky. The band is an edge-on view of our galaxy from within the galaxy; it is what we see as we look through the thick part of the pinwheel comprising all of the stars, nebulae and everything else that lie between us and the other side of the galaxy. When one looks into the night sky to either side of the Milky Way’s band, we are looking outward from the galaxy’s plane. Here there are fewer stars, and beyond them lies the great space between galaxies.

The brightest, most detailed area of the Milky Way is the galactic core. We can’t always see the core because as Earth moves around our sun in its year-long trek, each night of the year our dark side faces a slightly different view of the sky. As a result, some times of the year the core of Milky Way is not in view at night. During winter in the northern hemisphere, Earth’s night side faces the fainter stretches of the Milky Way. As we leave winter and spring approaches, we begin to have a view of the core in the early pre-dawn hours. The Milky Way will rise earlier each morning; toward the end of May the Milky Way’s position in the sky at 1:30 a.m. is similar to the pre-dawn view of late March. In late June, the core will be low on the southeastern horizon when darkness falls, and it will be higher in the sky each night immediately after dark through the summer.
In a few of the images through the year I have labeled celestial points in the sky. While the Milky Way and stars always follow the same paths across our skies through the seasons, the planets move independently against the starry backdrop. They travel in their own orbits around our sun, and because they’re closer to us than the stars are (by a lot), their independent motion relative to us causes them to move across the otherwise fixed star field. It’s the same principal at work as when you look into the distance and sway from side to side: you will see nearer objects appear to move back and forth relative to more distant objects. This year we had Jupiter and Saturn straddling the Milky Way all season; next year they’ll both be close together to the left of the Milky Way. Last year Mars was close to the Milky Way, but nowhere near it this year.

The night sky is fascinating in its variations. Here on the North Coast, we are blessed to live in an area where the skies are dark enough to enjoy its bejeweled wonders, and we are fortunate that it is not yet too crowded with space junk. Please enjoy these image of Night Light from our precious North Coast from the year 2019 just gone by.


To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or peer into its past, visit or contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx .
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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Holiday Magic

Posted By on Tue, Dec 24, 2019 at 11:46 AM

It certainly looked a lot like Christmas in Old Town, Eureka. I’d gone down to photograph some nighttime holiday lights, and what should happen by but a wooden Santa ornament.  It hobbled stiffly out of the store as if nothing were amiss, and I swear I heard it muttering about the Christmas rush. Then he paused to peer into the window display at Many Hands Gallery, cocking his wooden head from side to side on his stocky neck. Suddenly he chuckled, threw me a wink, and scuttled quickly back inside. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • It certainly looked a lot like Christmas in Old Town, Eureka. I’d gone down to photograph some nighttime holiday lights, and what should happen by but a wooden Santa ornament. It hobbled stiffly out of the store as if nothing were amiss, and I swear I heard it muttering about the Christmas rush. Then he paused to peer into the window display at Many Hands Gallery, cocking his wooden head from side to side on his stocky neck. Suddenly he chuckled, threw me a wink, and scuttled quickly back inside.
I’m used to odd things. I especially love when they visit me during the holidays, those special times when people want to do good things, and odd things find a welcome home. These times bring out the magical things; one doesn’t usually find Santa or the elves or Easter bunnies running about outside of their respective holidays.

But it’s all fair game during a holiday. My family put up our tree earlier this week, a little later than normal. My favorite ornaments are a little set of wooden Santas, elves, angels, sleighs, snowpeople, and the like. I’ve always felt closest to the Santas, cute little two and three quarter-inch figurines that remind me of the stop-motion Christmas specials of my childhood. They’re the things of which dreams are made, and the tiny figures danced and played in my dreams that night.
Festive lighting and Ferndale’s great Christmas tree lent holiday vibes to Ferndale’s Main Street. My wife kept a lookout for cars while I captured the image. December 19, 2019 in Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Festive lighting and Ferndale’s great Christmas tree lent holiday vibes to Ferndale’s Main Street. My wife kept a lookout for cars while I captured the image. December 19, 2019 in Humboldt County, California.
Later in the week my wife and I traveled into Ferndale to find some holiday night light and see what magic might be about in town to photograph. Main Street Ferndale was beautiful, a fully decked-out corridor with lights adorning most of the stores. The towering Christmas tree at the end of the street was visible for many blocks. But periodic showers kept most people inside, and they sent us home before I’d quite gotten what I wanted. I wanted magic, but that kind of thing has to come along when it’s ready.

A couple nights after our Ferndale visit I found myself down in Old Town Eureka. Many businesses were cleverly illuminated for the holidays and open for business, but many were not. I ended up outside the particularly beautiful windows of Many Hands Gallery at about 8p.m. With the view down the sidewalk and the glow from the window it gave me the best window/sidewalk/view I could find for a holiday photograph.
Evening holiday foragers found interesting things in Mind’s Eye Manufactory & Coffee Lounge in Ferndale on December 19, 2019. Look closely, for they were turned to blurs by the camera’s long exposure. Humboldt County, California. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Evening holiday foragers found interesting things in Mind’s Eye Manufactory & Coffee Lounge in Ferndale on December 19, 2019. Look closely, for they were turned to blurs by the camera’s long exposure. Humboldt County, California.
But magic wasn’t happening yet… the photo needed something, or it needed someone, to give the foreground a story element. I was on the point of posing myself for the photo just to get something into the foreground when the strangest thing happened. I could swear even now that it had been a dream like those from the other night, but for the photographic evidence my camera recorded.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Lone Swan Graces Benbow

Posted By on Wed, Dec 4, 2019 at 11:03 AM

The swan at Benbow. - TALIA ROSE
  • Talia Rose
  • The swan at Benbow.
A lone swan is swimming on the Eel River at Benbow.
Though swans are not unknown in the area, it is somewhat rare to see one in Southern Humboldt. The swans breed and raise their young in Arctic areas at the tip of the North American continent. Then they migrate south to winter on estuaries found along the coast of California and on the rice fields and wild wetlands in the Central Valley.
TALIA ROSE
  • Talia Rose
This single bird though has drifted down to float like a solitary snowflake on the
Eel River near the Benbow Inn. Local wildlife photographer Talia Rose was also able to capture some shots of the graceful bird, saying on her Facebook page County Line Wild that the swan had been at the location for a few days.

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Monday, December 2, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Looking for a Monocerotid Unicorn

Posted By on Mon, Dec 2, 2019 at 10:13 AM

Reflections at Moonstone Beach. While we waited for meteors, a pair of helicopters skimmed the horizon as blinking dots sliding toward Trinidad’s glow. The rest of the galaxy hanging overhead didn’t notice us. Humboldt County, California., November 21, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Reflections at Moonstone Beach. While we waited for meteors, a pair of helicopters skimmed the horizon as blinking dots sliding toward Trinidad’s glow. The rest of the galaxy hanging overhead didn’t notice us. Humboldt County, California., November 21, 2019.
The other week I was finally made aware of the existence of an elusive annual celestial phenomenon nicknamed the Unicorn meteor shower, or Alpha Monocerotids. So dubbed in part no doubt for its mercurial habits, the name is also eponymous for the constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn, from which the meteors appear to radiate. The constellation itself is faint and difficult to see, and the shifty meteor shower can vary widely in its intensity from one year to the next.

The Alpha Monocerotid shower occurs when Earth’s orbit takes it through the trail of debris left by an unknown comet at some point time in the past. It’s a narrow trail by cosmic standards, and we don’t always intersect with it perfectly as we ride our planet around the sun. This year Earth was predicted to hit the thick of it, but because the trail is so thin we would pass through it quickly and enjoy only a short window of possibly intense meteor action.
Hoping with family members to see the edge of the Monocerotid meteor shower from Moonstone Beach, instead we came back with the makings of our next album cover. (Not really.) We saw a couple meteors, maybe, but we missed the shower. Humboldt County, California. November 21, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Hoping with family members to see the edge of the Monocerotid meteor shower from Moonstone Beach, instead we came back with the makings of our next album cover. (Not really.) We saw a couple meteors, maybe, but we missed the shower. Humboldt County, California. November 21, 2019.
I’m not an astronomer, just an observer with an imagination. I imagine a comet’s trail of particles to be similar to a stream of water from a hose, except that it is fairly straight rather than bending down to the ground, and it’s not flowing because it was left behind by a comet rather than forced out of a hose. The debris trail is not absolutely straight, of course, as the comet is orbiting the sun, but still it is a path of particles that Earth passes through. Also, although water comes out of your hose in a solid column, the path of cometary particles is far less dense.

Now imagine passing a globe of Earth through the stream from your hose. As the stream of water splashes down onto the globe, so, too, does the stream of debris left by a comet. From the point of view of someone standing on Earth’s surface, this “stream” of particles will radiate from the point in the sky where the path is entering the atmosphere, which is called the radiant. What we see as meteors are the particles from the comet’s trail of flotsam burning up in our atmosphere. The radiant moves across the sky with the rest of the stars as the Earth revolves on its axis.
A few annotations to help you find your way. Trinidad glows to the north. November 21, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A few annotations to help you find your way. Trinidad glows to the north. November 21, 2019.
This year, the Monocerotid meteor shower was predicted to be fairly intense, but our part of the globe wasn’t predicted to see the best of the action. The radiant would be far out over the Atlantic during the shower, and the show would be over before it would rise here on the west coast of North America. The shower would begin around 8:15 p.m. for us and only last about an hour as Earth intersected the debris trail. The radiant, located in the constellation Monoceros beneath and a little to the north of Orion, wouldn’t rise in the east until around 9:30 p.m., after the shower’s peak. I knew we wouldn’t get a view of the radiant itself, but I had hopes that some outlying “earthgrazer” meteors would still be visible for us as they streaked a glancing arc through the atmosphere.

But in the end, my own tale of the meteor shower would reflect only the chase of a unicorn’s tail.


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Thursday, November 14, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: A Handful of Night Light

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 1:03 PM

From Patrick’s Point, to the Avenue of the Giants, to the Lost Coast of legend, I give you … a handful of seven lovely Humboldt nights. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • From Patrick’s Point, to the Avenue of the Giants, to the Lost Coast of legend, I give you … a handful of seven lovely Humboldt nights.
I was in a situation not long ago with a handful of nights with which I knew not what to do. How many nights are there in a handful? You might wonder, though I never had, but it turns out that it depends on how big they are. The nights, not the hands … well, and the hands. In this case, it worked out such that when my wife held out her hands, I poured about a week’s worth of nights into them: seven magical evenings of North Coast Night Light to share with you here. Let’s pop among them for a little tour.

Were I to pour these evenings into your hand just so, inside the globe at the tip of your fingers you would find yourself high up in a quiet rocky grotto in the forest. The air is still in your protected eyrie, but its rush soughs softly through the forest all around you. An opening in the foliage reveals the Eel River far below, gliding between redwood-covered hillsides. A dazzling night sky dominated by the Milky Way reaches across from horizon to horizon like a great tear in the sky.

A step clockwise and you find yourself pushing through from one scene to the next in your handful of evenings. You’re above U.S. highway 101 now, standing beside the Avenue of the Giants where it passes over the Redwood Highway. It’s near midnight, and the only cars out this late zip by on the freeway below, each zooming past in its individual bubble of light. If you could watch with the patient eye of the camera rather than your own, you would see the cars as meteors trailing streaks of light that each become part of the scene. Several of them might pass by before you blinked once, each dragging their light tails behind them and adding their brushwork of light to the trees on either hand.

One night slips quietly into the next. So peaceful is this one, sitting beside the banks of the South Fork Eel River on a warm summer’s night. You steep there for a while with the redwood forest around you and the soft sounds of water playing along the shore beside you. Surrounded by a skyline of giant redwood silhouettes reaching into higher into the heavens than any other living organism, you consider small you are among living things.

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