Night Skies

We spent the past few days at Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick, looking out on the relatively warm waters of Northumberland Strait (toward Prince Edward Island).  I’ll let students write about our days.  Here, I’ll just comment on our nights.

Stars.  Wow.  I think this part of New Brunswick participates in a dark-night initiative in which they intentionally minimize the amount of nighttime illumination.  That means fewer bright signs, downward-directed lighting, and dimmer lighting in general.  The effects are spectacular.

For several clear nights in a row, we could see not only the big, bright stars, but even the myriad little ones.  I saw constellations that I haven’t seen in years.  Milky Way?  Oh yeah, bright from horizon to horizon.

Satellites? Oh yeah, 2, 3, and sometimes even 4 satellites could be seen simultaneously, some moving in parallel paths, some in criss-crossing paths.  Some brighter and moving fast, others dimmer (farther away) and moving slowly.

And then of course, there were the shooting stars.  August is a good month for shooting stars in general, and we weren’t disappointed.  On two occasions I saw a flash, rather than a streak, which probably was a shooting star coming almost directly toward us, rather than across the sky; sorry, no photos!

The price for the beautiful night sky was collected by the mosquitoes.  But they were really only bad from 2 hours before sunrise and sunset to 2 hours after sunset and sunset (and sometimes in the middle of the day if the wind wasn’t blowing).  The campfires certainly helped, and the skeeters pretty much disappeared by the time we got to dessert and games of Liar’s Dice.

The academic content is getting a bit thicker about now, with a recent labor-intensive beach transect and a lab report on bedrock fracture patterns due tomorrow.  Fortunately, frisbee on the beach and good food soften the discomfort.  Hard to believe, but they have a mid-term exam (for Climate Change and Glacial Geology) on Friday.

– Johan Erikson