Dust in the Wind

The Canaries are known for their crystal-clear night skies. One of the world’s most renowned observatories is located atop the nearby island of La Palma..

But when the weather comes from the east, out of Saharan Africa, all bets are off.  The winds carry dust in great volumes.  The air is dusty to breathe.  The boat gets cloudy with coat of fine brown soot.   And the setting sun, obscured in a fine particle mist, looks more like the moon.

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A dusty sunset.

But when the wind shifts back to the prevailing northerlies, the skies clear out again, and the moon appears so clearly that one is tempted to reach up and pluck it down.

Moon rise

A setting waxing moon.

The skies are so clear, in fact, that the whole moon can be seen clearly even when the lights are mostly off,  as here.

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The light of old moon in the new moons arms, just a day and a half old

After finding this new moon on the day after it appeared, Paul and Alexander hustled to the beach for a better photo (this shaky one was taken from the boat).  But we were too late!  Sneaky moon.  At this latitude, the sun and moon don’t so much “set” as plummet, ending the day with a nosedive beneath the horizon.  There’s not the as much drama as the lingering, sideways, sliding sunsets that we watched in Scandinavia this summer.

Alexander and I have set a goal of one day finding the new moon a day earlier, when it is less than 24 hours old.  It’s a tricky game.  Because the new moon is only a whisper of light and is less than 15 degrees away from the sun, it is tough to find in the blinding light of a sunset where, by definition, the new moon must be found. But we’ll have fun looking each month! And like everything, there is now a website to help us in our search. With that help, maybe we’ll get it done.

 

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