Morning, Stargazer

I am what you might call an amateur stargazer. That even might be over selling it, actually. But I did go out and buy some binoculars just to do some star gazing, so that might count. In the end, I am more in awe than an expert of the stars, and even in the darkest and most tiring mornings, I am still amazed by them. Just last week I took Frank out of the house pre-dawn, and staring back down at me between the milky clouds was the birghtest light in the sky.

Not being confident in my own diagnosis, I quickly popped my phone on, downloaded an old App that I've used in the past, and held it up to the night sky. Thanks to the GPS module and the accelerometer in the phone, it augments my view of the sky with a night sky labeled with what stars and celestial bodies I should be able to see. It's quite a remarkable piece of design (and runs like an absolute beast on my new phone).

Confirming my suspicions, it was Venus looking back down at me. That's right, the planet Venus. Seen with the naked eye. That is light coming from an average of 26 million miles away, and has taken just over 2 and a half minutes to reach me. Thanks, light, I appreciate the journey.

And that is the view I had of her. Which, in my mind, is absolutely marvellous. When in Texas I struggled to see much more than a few planets and some bright stars thanks to the light pollution in Houston, but driving between Flagstaff and Pheonix in Arizona the night sky was quite unbelievable. And then again, in the mountains above Albuquerque in New Mexico, the stars were once again pretty incredible. I just wish that we'd stayed nearer to the Grand Canyon and watched the stars there, as I can only imagine how utterly mesmerising it would be. I plan to go back to do such a thing soon.

In Canada, where my fiancee is from (I've mentioned that a few times, right?) we drove down to the docks, it was very cold (-20°C probably) with a Tim Hortons and looked at the stars. It was pretty romantic, if it weren't for my "Oh wow, look at that one" and "That's probably a star" breaking the mood every two seconds.

It was this morning when I correctly identified Jupiter that I let out a squeal. Jupiter, between 390 and 576 million miles from Earth, is a lot farther away. That is actually 4.2 AU to 6.2 AU away, as an AU is the distance from Earth to the Sun. Pretty incredible.

I think that I will take a trip in a few weeks further north one evening, binoculars and iPhone in tow, and do some proper looking up. Can't wait.