My Private Light Show

On October 25, I happened to be awake and ambulatory at 5:30 a.m. Not a usual occurrence. Gazing out the window toward the East, I saw the black sky and a large, roundish star, looking like a Christmas ornament above the soft Santa Fe hills. Curious, I looked at the star with binoculars. Wow! The light from the star became a thin, white streak of looping and zipping light. At first, I thought that perhaps I wasn’t holding the binoculars steadily, but then I reasoned that the hills weren’t moving—and reasoning isn’t all that easy at that hour. I looked at the star off and on as it rose. Without binoculars, it looked like a large star, but with them the wild zigging and zagging continued.
CuriousER, I later e-mailed, the web site of the McDonald Observatory in Texas, saying that I enjoy their informative radio spots and explaining what I’d seen. I assured them that I really wasn’t inebriated or crazy.

The wonders of the web. A kind scientist replied, and here’s what I learned. I saw Venus; at this time of year, the morning star that rises just before the sun. Because of the planet’s location near the horizon when I saw it, the light rays had to pass through more atmosphere, and thus were more jumbled as bubbles of warmer and cooler air swirled around in the sky bending the light rays.

An approaching weather front can increase the turbulence in the atmosphere. Indeed, we had an atypical October snow the next day in Santa Fe. Even before I had an explanation for my private light show, I decided the sight was a good omen.

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