Nature, New Mexico

Looking Skyward

I am lucky to have an unimpeded view of Northern New Mexico’s big, big sky. There are no tall buildings on the mesa. No crowded neighborhoods. No trees, alas. Our sky hangs above for all to see.

Our sunsets are famous, of course, with deep reds, oranges, and pinks like the one I shot above. Photographers and painters go nuts over them. So do the tourists. I’ve been here almost nine years, and they never fail to impress me as well.

In the summer, during monsoon season, we get strong afternoon thunder storms with chain lightning, including bolts that flex horizontally across the sky.

We have skies as blue as bluebirds’ feathers. And interesting cloud formations. On a recent walk, my friend Virginia pointed to a cloud formation she called “mare’s tails” — cirrus to others —  and said we should get rain within a few days.

Then, there is our night sky so dark the stars are exceptionally bright. I’ve seen meteors shoot across the sky, including one that fell far away onto the mesa in a grand display of sparks.

Photo of April 4 eclipse courtesy of astronomer Gary Zientara

Photo of April 4 eclipse courtesy of astronomer Gary Zientara

We had a lunar eclipse early April 4. I got myself out of bed to see the earth cast its shadow on the full moon. I wasn’t disappointed. The moon had a rosy tint, hence, its Blood Moon name.

Gary Zientara, an astronomer who lives in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, took the photo of the eclipse in progress on this post. He writes a column called Star Lite for The Taos News, where I work.

Sometimes I hear about a great celestial event and unfortunately the sky is clouded or it’s in another part of the world. Other times we get lucky. I remember the Hale-Bopp Comet that was visible to the eye for a long time in the late ’90s.

But then there is the unexpected. Once in college I was running an errand in the center of town. I stopped at a park bench just as the light dimmed for a solar eclipse I didn’t know was going to happen. I sat there until it was over, careful not to look at the sun, but enjoying the experience nonetheless.



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