“Pairadise” and the Pleiades

Pairadise, Mark Ellis

If you’re like me and have been watching Venus and Jupiter dance in the night sky these past weeks, then this stunning photograph by Mark Ellis will certainly delight. It was taken on a beach in Maui, and the juxtaposition of that indigo sky with the almost otherworldly clouds and terrain makes this a truly incredible image. And look at how beautifully bright Venus is! Jupiter is slowly pulling away from Venus now, but the pair can still be seen in the night sky for a little while longer.

Despite how bright Venus is, I can’t stop looking at the Pleiades peeking out from behind the clouds. Since I was old enough to recognize that particular group of stars, I’ve always loved looking for them in the night sky. As a child of maybe eight or so, while at my family’s little horse ranch, I would spend hours laying on the grass looking up the stars, often focusing on just the “Seven Sisters,” imagining myriad stories of who these mysterious sisters were (I only knew then what the constellation was called, not the mythology behind it), and why they were shining so brightly in my sky.  Many years ago in my early twenties, I had the pleasure of spending some time with a Lakota medicine woman, Barrett Eagle Bear, and I remember being enraptured by her telling of the Lakota story of this particular constellation. The story of seven young girls who, over seven days, were taken up to the sky by an eagle. The eagle was defeated and the girls were returned to earth, but their spirits remained in the sky.

I often write about the sky in this blog, and it’s because it has a similar effect on me as do great books and beautiful art… it stirs both my emotions and my intellect. So I’ll keep looking up, as should all of you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.. our universe is a pretty amazing place.

Our Beautiful Sun

Yesterday’s lecture in my AP World History class included the telling of the Mayan creation myth, the Popol Vuh. It’s a beautiful and unusual story that talks about the creation of the earth, of man, and of prayer. It’s also a story of the birth of the sun and the moon, when the twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, that are the protagonists of the narrative, successfully defeat the gods of Xibalba (the underworld), and ultimately become the sun and moon, to forever light the heavens and the earth. (You can see a beautiful animated film of the Popol Vuh here, I highly recommend it).

Now I’ve posted much about the moon, including these photographs by Laurant Laveder that I simply love, but nothing about the sun. While watching the film with my students today, however, I remembered having seen, sometime last year, a series of images of the sun that blew my mind. The photographer is Alan Friedman, and more of his amazing work can be found here.

The filters he uses create images where sun seems almost soft in texture, the colors are so rich and deep, and the prominences are downright stunning. Well, I’ll let you see for yourself. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words…

One more thing. I’ve written about how difficult it is to get a sense of scale when looking at photographs of space. Before we get to the rest of the images, click here to see how the Earth relates to what we’re seeing..

Kind of looks like Bigfoot, doesn't it?

Moon and Venus

Moon and Venus 1Moon and Venus 2Moon and Venus 3Moon and Venus 4Moon and Venus 5Moon and Venus 6
Moon and Venus 7Moon and Venus 8Moon and Venus 3 (for the blog)Moon and Venus 1 (blog)Moon and Venus 6 (blog)Moon and Venus 9
Moon and Venus 10Moon and Venus 11Moon and Venus 12Moon and Venus 13 (blog)Moon and Venus 13

A beautiful series of images of an impossibly thin crescent moon accompanied by Venus. Thank you Phil Plait for taking and sharing these photographs.

A Bibliophile’s Paradise, Part II


For those of you that enjoyed the photos of Eco’s library in the previous post, might I suggest taking a peek at Martin Grüner Larsen’s flickr photostream.  What an amazing collection of images of Eco surrounded by his books.