July 8th, 2005



Venus, Mercury and the waxing crescent moon were supposed to be very close together last night, but I forgot to go out and look for them until almost 11:30. The moon was gone by then, and I didn't see Mercury, but I saw an extraordinarily bright object which I took to be Venus. It seemed to be too far above the horizon for that late hour, though, so I wasn't sure. As I watched, the light quickly faded, growing small and fuzzy. The stars in that quarter of the sky did not dim, however, so I wasn't sure what was happening. I surmised that it must have been a small cloud veiling the planet. The light did not reappear, and the surrounding stars continued to burn brightly.

Finally, I went indoors, returning for another look a quarter of an hour later. The light had still not returned. Later still, the sky did grow a bit overcast, and many patches of stars dimmed or vanished altogether, but I never saw the bright light again. Now I'm no longer sure if what I saw was in fact Venus, or some strange celestial phenomenon. The conjunction of the three is to be repeated tonight, not long after sunset, with the moon even closer to the two planets than it was last night. I'll try to remember to go out on time. If what I saw last night was Venus, it was brighter than I can recall ever having seen it. The sight tonight ought to be quite splendid.

It is pleasantly cool this morning, and I hear the sound of lawn sprinklers up the block, and the chirping of the morning birds. The sky remains slightly hazed, but only enough to soften the first rays of the rising sun that are now burnishing the tops of the pines. The air, alas, still smells of gardenias, but I see that several of them are rapidly turning brown. A few even slightly cooler days, and the end of the gardenia season, will be nice. Unfortunately, my spider is still missing. I had hoped that it might emerge from some hiding place, but it appears to be gone forever. I'll miss my tiny arachnid companion.

Here's something (unearthed by scottobear) for any photographers reading: AutoStitch is a fully automatic 2D image stitching application, not yet commercially available, but a free demo version is available from their site. The examples in their panorama gallery are impressive.


Clouds today like giant birds trailing immaculate white plumage, clouds like the ghosts of fish swimming a blue lake, clouds like albino lizards scurrying toward gray rocks. It was all very nice to look at, but the moisture that brought the clouds also brought humidity which made the sultry air heavy. The clouds have lingered after dusk, obscuring the parts of the sky where I expected to see Venus and Mercury and the crescent moon. The moon is partly visible, through the trees, but I can't spot Venus at all. In any case, the fact that the moon is still so near the horizon at dusk, and the fact that Venus is supposed to be in its vicinity, suggests that the bright light I saw fairly high in the sky at 11:30 last night was not Venus after all. Venus had to have set by then. Now I have a mystery on my hands. What was that light? I'll keep watching the sky tonight, but I'm not expecting to see whatever it was again.

Somebody in the neighborhood has firecrackers. I just heard a string of them go off. They're a bit late for Independence Day, unless they're getting an early start on next year's holiday. I hope they don't set fire to anything (or blow off any appendages) while I'm in the shower. I want to see it when it happens!