Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Neutral Zone Infraction?!


We have a hawk living somewhere in our neighborhood.

First people began finding clumps of feathers in their yards and along the sidewalks. But I think we all thought it was just the neighborhood stray cats getting lucky.

Then people began finding bodies of sparrows and pigeons with the heads cut clean off. Very odd looking. Not the sort of thing cats do.

One day I was walking out of a convenience store. I was talking to a guy and we both were walking through the parking lot behind the store. A pigeon started to fly away alongside of us. Then—BLAM!—for all the world it looked as if the pigeon just exploded. The guy and I literally jumped backward. On the ground was this bizarre looking writhing mass of gray feathers and brown feathers. We realized that a hawk had dived on the pigeon and grabbed it out of the air. Now the two of them were wrestling on the ground. Somehow the pigeon managed to free itself from the talons of the hawk and flew away. The hawk stood up, preened itself a moment, then sloooowly spread its wide wings and flew away too. The guy I had been talking to and I looked at each other and both said, “Wow!”

We have a hawk living somewhere in our neighborhood.


We’ve had cloudy skies for the last few days, but I believe Venus is now too low in the west for me to see. The last clear day we had was three or four days back and I got a good view of Venus then.

I set up my new four inch short-focus refractor equipped with an erecting prism and a 20x eyepiece on the tripod from my old telescope. I positioned the tripod all the way back near the alley in my backyard. I knew—from the evening before—that Venus would be just above and just to the left of my chimney after the Sun went down.

Just after sundown, when the sky was still blue, I searched the sky above and left of my chimney with my new telescope, getting a good three degree field of view. I found Venus quickly. The crescent of Venus was very thin, very bright against the quickly darkening sky.

As I adjusted the slow-motion control of my tripod to follow Venus down as the rotation of the Earth caused the planet to set, the neighborhood hawk soared upward into the field of view of my telescope.

The hawk soared upward with its wings still, curled back just slightly. The hawk circled in my field of view, soaring right around the planet Venus.

Instantly, all by itself, my mind flashed-back to Star Trek and I thought, ‘Hey, a Romulan Bird-of-Prey is going into orbit around Venus!’

It’s hard to describe what a weird, freaky little wonderful moment it was.

The sky was getting dark but it was still bright enough to see details of the hawk. Venus was bright and even at just 20x the crescent was reasonably large in my three degree field of view. And the soaring hawk really did look like a dangerous spaceship going into orbit around Venus.

It looked exactly like a very, very well-made special effects scene from a movie, but at the same time I had the very real awareness that what I was looking at was real—it was actually happening in front of me.

Astronomy is full of cool little moments that seem something like magic when they happen but are hard to describe afterward. That was one of them.

It was very cool.

Romulans in the inner system!

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