Monday, April 11, 2016

Bonus Passage Report: Just 30 miles from the equator

The sky where I am is just stunning, day or night. It’s night time here now, and I’m alone on watch taking in quite a show. You’d think the tropical sky would be thick with water vapor, but somehow, that’s not so. You can see the lunar rover on the moon with your naked eye. Almost. There isn’t a cloud in the sky and the stars are out. By my count there are a gazillion of them visible tonight. They light up the deck and make the horizon distinctly visible even though the moon set a couple of hours ago. Imagine an absolute blanket of stars that stretch from horizon to horizon, and I mean right down to the water. You cannot go outside and not feel the weight of all that matter in the sky. To the west Jupiter is setting and making a beautiful reflection on the oily slick water that reaches from the edge of the sky right to the edge of Moonshadow. Like a “moon river”, this is a “planet river”. To the south there is the same ship I saw two nights ago with it’s bright light shining, can’t be over 5 miles away right on the horizon with a bright cloud nearby. When I saw that ship the first time I quickly scanned our radar and chart plotter for AIS targets, guessing this was our friends aboard Speakeasy, a catamaran that left La Cruz two days ahead of Moonshadow. Tonight I wasn’t fooled: That is not a ship, but something called Lambda Velorum - a supergiant star that hangs out 545 light years from our sun, and down here it sits right on the horizon posing as a ship. And that cloud? It’s part of the milky way that reaches right across the sky and dives into the water where my ship was. Just above all this is the Southern Cross pointing straight down at the south pole. A quick 180 and there to the north is the Big Dipper pointing at Polaris, or where Polaris would be, too low in the sky to see if you hang out at the equator.

That’s right, we are now just 15 miles north of the equator, a very magical place.

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