The Southern Hemisphere’s skies have less light pollution than the Northern Hemisphere’s due to smaller land mass and lower populations. Out in the bush is the best place to view this phenomenon…far from cities, towns, and oppressive over-population. Guests, especially those from large cities like London, New York, and Rome, are in great awe of the magic and beauty of the heavens that accompany us on our nightly drives. As the sun sets over the Drakensburg Mountains in fiery colors of orange and pink the first stars start to twinkle about us. Venus is the first to present itself. In fact a planet and not a star, Venus’ glow is the result of sulphuric clouds that cover the entirety of the planet. The sun’s rays reflect off of these clouds thus casting a luminous, and quite bright, sphere into our night skies. Scientists believe that Venus was a planet similar to Earth but due to excessive Global Warming is now inhospitable, with roughly 470 degree Celsius daily temperatures and constant acid rain showers.
Slowly but surely as the night progresses more constellations present themselves. In winter time one of our main Southern Hemisphere constellations is Scorpio. Scorpio lies 176 degrees directly across the night skies from our main summer constellation Orion. The heart of the Scorpio, Antares the 15th brightest star in the sky, is a Red Giant located below the head. A Red Giant is a star in its last days of life and shines with an orangey red color. The San Bushman call Antares “The Fire-Finishing Star” as at some times of the year it sets below the horizon very late, towards the time of a fires dying embers.
Many stories surround the heavens’ constellations. For Scorpio, one of the stories goes as follows: Orion was a very boastful hunter in the days of the Greek and Roman gods. He one day bragged that he could kill all the animals on Earth. Gaia, the Earth goddess took exception to this and sent Scorpio, the scorpion, to kill Orion, which he successfully did. As Orion was a beautiful man, another goddess took pity upon him and put him into the sky for ever more. Gaia, furious at this, then put Scorpio into the heavens as well to chase Orion for eternity, thus Orion is ever-present in summer, and Scorpio in winter.
Our cold front seems to have abated today leaving us with clear skies and warmth…perfect for enjoying the stars this evening!
Noelle DiLorenzo – Starry Nights: Part 1 – 17 July 2009 Story