Back to previous post: How do you say “smoking gun” in ecclesiastical Latin?

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Trope on a stick

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

August 18, 2003

The view from above
Posted by Teresa at 09:45 PM *

This has been much linked-to, but just in case you haven’t seen it yet, here are the NYTimes’ comparison photos of the usual nighttime satellite view of the Northeast, and the view from space on Thursday.

Comments on The view from above:
#1 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 05:31 AM:

I saw an extraordinarily beautiful picture of the upper west side of Manhattan after the blackout.

The last time I saw a sky full of stars was in 1991, when I was working in Basingstoke, and at that time a short train ride would take me to a small enough village that five minutes walk would take me beyond the range of the village streetlights.

When I moved to Reading, only 8 years later, I tried a couple of stargazing walks, but either Reading is that bit closer to London or the spread of lights is now too wide: I was unable to find anywhere dark enough to stand in the middle of a field and look up and be awestruck by the splendour of the galaxy hanging just overhead, simultaneously close enough to touch and centuries of light away.

There is a poem called Delay by Elizabeth Jennings that was current on the London Underground either at that time or not far before it.

Sigh. Makes me wish for a power cut tonight.

#2 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 08:17 AM:

The last time I saw a sky full of stars was in 1991, when I was working in Basingstoke, and at that time a short train ride would take me to a small enough village that five minutes walk would take me beyond the range of the village streetlights.

The thing is, even then, you probably didn't see a real sky full of stars...

I grew up out in the sticks, in a small town in Central NY (just above the PA border, about midway out the Snoopy nose of the state), and always used to laugh at relatives from The City who talked about stars. We could see all kinds of stars out there (on a good night, anyway-- Broome County is not noted for its clear skies), and as far as I'm concerned, Long Island is part of the Dragaeran Empire.

A few years ago, though, we were out in New Mexico fishing up in the mountains, and the stars they have out there put anything I've seen on the East Coast to shame. Even though the moon set about an hour after the sun did, you didn't need a flashlight to get around at night-- the stars alone were bright enough that everything was perfectly clear.

(And really freakin' cold... The temperature would be in the 80's during the day, and below freezing at night...)

#3 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:19 AM:

New Mexico is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, in part for that reason, in part because the desert there is breathtaking (in a way that the deserts of southern Arizona are not).

#4 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:47 AM:

I feel the need to defend Arizona's honour as a beautiful place. Of course, I realize you were talking about the southern deserts, but Arizona still has some of the most beautiful spots on earth--Sedona's Oak Creek Canyon, for one. And I know for a fact you can get a kick-ass view of the stars from the Flagstaff area. After all, the Percival Lowell Observatory is there.

#5 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 01:38 PM:

I live in a small city in GA and we can't see stars at all in the city limits for the polution (both light polution and crap from the local paper mill). But I f I drive thirty minutes out ot the beech, that's another story...

When i was little, my family lived in GTMO Cuba for three years (this was back in the mid eighties, when civies were still aloud on the base). We could go for walks down our street and see stars forever. Made me miss them that much more when we moved back to VA.

#6 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 01:46 PM:

The beauty of northern New Mexico is one of the reasons we're so willing to visit my parents there so often, for all it's a fair drive from the land of Kitt Peak Observatory.

---L.

#7 ::: Eloise Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 04:00 PM:

Hrm. In re that NYTimes image, Teresa ... where's Chicago? Where's Indianapolis? I find the absence of other (perhaps comparative) Big White Splotches on the landscape a bit puzzling, and mildly suspicious.

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 04:03 PM:

Chad, Elizabeth, you're making me homesick.

BTW: last I heard, Sedona had turned into Woo-woo Central, settled and populous and deeply silly, instead of being the sedate little town in an amazing setting that I remember.

#9 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 04:18 PM:

As an addition to Eloise's question, why is NJ so much dimmer in the Thursday picture? According to my parents who live there, only 2 or 3 counties in NJ were blacked out; most of the state wasn't.

#10 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 06:49 PM:

last I heard, Sedona had turned into Woo-woo Central, settled and populous and deeply silly, instead of being the sedate little town in an amazing setting that I remember.

No. Say it isn't so.

Although the last time I went through Oak Creek Canyon was January 2002, and it was still pretty sedate--at least the parts I saw. Granted, there was a Dairy Queen in the canyon which was kind of odd.

Peekchores of some red rocks down in the canyon:
http://www.yrth.net/insects/journal/pj13.php

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 07:08 PM:

Maybe it's okay, then. Maybe it's just Sedona itself, and the canyon's still the canyon. Do people still put on several layers of cutoffs and go sliding down the rocks along the creekbed?

#12 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 07:15 PM:

*shrugs* Not sure. It's been years since I went slogging round the canyon itself--my last trip was a present from my boyfriend. I'd told him all about it, and he detoured from our route just so I could see it again.

How I First Came To Sedona: When I was in fifth grade, my dad checked me out of school for a week and took me to Arizona (from Utah) and we went hiking all around Jacob Lake and Flagstaff and Oak Creek Canyon--and I thought Oak Creek Canyon was the most beautiful place in the world. (In fact, I even made up an embarrassing story about how even a visit to Oak Creek Canyon made Prince Charles and Princess Di forget their marital woes, and how they got together again and had six more children. I was nine, so I hope that explains my lapse of sanity.)

#13 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 07:41 PM:

The worst part is Sedona itself—Oak Creek Canyon is still the canyon, tho' there's much residential building along the road, including small shops and B&Bs. And yes, they still slide down Slide Rock. Sedona gets sprawlier, ever more woowoo and harder to drive through, each time I revisit. Traffic north of the Y is particularly bad, with shopping strips growing like crystals in a supersaturated solution. Not, perhaps, Taos bad (yet) but approaching, and without the pueblo nor ski resorts nor a sense of how to not overdo pink.

I like what I've seen of Oak Creek Canyon, but that's very little. We've never once found camping there, it's so crowded and popular. We usually end up on Mingus Mountain above Cottonwood/Jerome instead.

---L.

#14 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 10:49 PM:

I will certainly speak up for southern Arizona, desert and range alike. I have heard the heartbeat of the world at Organ Pipe National Monument.

I love northern New Mexico, but every time I go to Tucson I realize that this is the climate for which my species was designed.

#15 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:04 PM:

Patrick, we must be different species...I need a ton of equipment and supplies to survive in Arizona (big hats, special clothing, gallons of water and quarts of sunscream). I generally get pretty sick (in such hot&dry environments I mean), and the sun HURTS (I don't mean sunburn, I mean when it's actually hitting, like billions of tiny needles).

On the other hand, as I said to several coworkers the other day, as they shivered in an admittedly over-air-conditioned conference room, "No, I'm fine. By the time I feel cold, the rest of you will have frozen to death!"

#16 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:09 PM:

Of course the sun hurts. That's why you stay in the shade when it's out, you silly person.

Complaining that direct sunlight hurts is like complaining that you can't breathe when you're underwater. Well, yes. One avoids that.

#17 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:10 PM:

For the record, my two favorite climates are Pacific Northwest (or British) overcast, and hot dry desert. Each involves certain sensible adaptations.

#18 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2003, 11:53 PM:

Direct sunlight hurts? OOOOOKAY. I'm another species I gues. Yeah, I sunburn like crazy, but but but I've never found direct sunlight painful. In fact it makes me turn my face to the heavens and smile. Another country heard from.

MKK--Looking forward to next year's Westercon because it's in Phoenix. In July.

#19 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2003, 09:16 AM:

I'm a total desert rat. I love Tucson but not sure how well I'd adapt; it's a little more intense than I'm used to, as a NM-er born and bread.

Or, like Patrick, I'd settle for somewhere along the western coast. I could go for anything north of San Francisco, to, say, Western Canada or the southern tip of Alaska.

'Course, I love Baja, too.

-l.

#20 ::: Eloise Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2003, 09:10 AM:

Getting a series of really severe sunburns as a child [1] has apparently taught my skin and nerves new skills. I can feel when another half-hour in the sun will turn into sunburn (i.e., a physiological 'get in the shade now, you fuckwit, or deal with the consequences' warning). This is fairly useful, I suppose. Of course, I also have incredibly idiosyncratic thermoregulation physiology (which also biases me towards 'wishing to stay in the shade when it's sunny and hot').

[1] It turns out that I sunburn through 30SPF sunscreen. When I was a child, you practically had to get a prescription to buy 15 around here - 5 or 10 was standard. My grandmother the doctor managed, after two summers of misery, to find some 15 somewhere (verrrry small tube), and we applied it every single hour, whether I went in the water or not, and I STILL sunburned. At this point she said 'the heck with it' and I started wearing oversized t-shirts and zinc on my nose and ears and cheeks every time we went to the beach. And a hat. And I still sunburned. I now own a niiiiice big bottle of 35SPF ... but years of reflexes mean I seldom need to use it, as I automatically avoid sunburn on my own (except, of course, when forced to remain in the sun for extended periods for specific reasons, in which case I slather liberally).

#21 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2003, 12:29 PM:

Speaking of Tucson mountains: the Mt. Lemmon road reopens today, having been closed since the fire. The one surviving cafe in Summerhaven will be open.

---L.

#22 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2003, 02:33 PM:

Let's face it: what we're all saying is that we hate heat plus humidity. Muggy air retains heat. It clings to your skin, and pools inside your clothes. You don't walk through it; you swim in it.

In the desert Southwest, direct sunlight is like a heat lamp, but if you're out of the direct sun, you're probably okay. Dry air doesn't hold the heat anywhere near as much, and it keeps your natural evaporative cooling systems working just fine. And at night there, the temperature goes down! It doesn't keep getting hotter after dark, which is evil, and wrong, and just plain unnatural, and proves that humankind was not meant to live in this climate!

Idiots! Everybody in New York spends the latter part of the summer in a state of heat exhaustion and cumulative sleep deprivation, only they're too fagged out to realize it, so they don't remember it afterward when the weather finally cools off!

Aaaaaaaaaargh!

(It's a hot day, here in New York ...)

#23 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2003, 03:00 PM:

It's a hot day here, too; 88 F, 100 F with the humidex, ~50 percent humidity, which feels wondeful compared to the 95% we were having.

#24 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2003, 03:02 PM:

Eloise Mason: If you suffered from that many bad sunburns as a child, please make sure you see a dermatologist on a regular basis to make sure you don't develop cancer.

A relative will soon be having surgery for her recurrence of melanoma. She ignored a birthmark that turned odd looking, and now they are talking about the "life expectancy" of a woman who still has a child in high school.

#25 ::: Eloise Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2003, 04:14 PM:

Michelle said: "Eloise Mason: If you suffered from that many bad sunburns as a child, please make sure you see a dermatologist on a regular basis to make sure you don't develop cancer."

I know. And I have quite an amusing assortment of moles, but as of three months ago the dermatologist says that even the ones that are changing shape and size are in fact not troublesome just now. Melanoma runs in my family, as well (though I'd rather have melanoma than, say, breast cancer or leukemia to anticipate!).

#26 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2003, 10:12 PM:

though I'd rather have melanoma than, say, breast cancer or leukemia to anticipate

I wonder if you're confusing melanoma with basal cell carcinoma? Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and death rates for melanomas that are not caught quickly are quite high. (The CDC says that 75% of skin cancer deaths are from melanomas.)

But if you're seeing a dermatologist that is excellent, and I am very glad to hear it.
Sorry if I came off as a public service announcment, but I know enough about cancer to be frightened of it rather than reassured by our current rate of medical advance.

#27 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2003, 10:29 PM:

Melanoma runs in my family, as well (though I'd rather have melanoma than, say, breast cancer or leukemia to anticipate!).


Everyone I've known who has been diagnosed with breast cancer is alive. Of the people I've known who have been diagnosed with melanoma, half are dead.

My samples are relatively small, but it still looks like a no-brainer to me.

#28 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2003, 09:03 AM:

Southeastern Arizona is one of my favorite places. The span of sky and horizon are breathstopping.

Years ago, when I was at Ft. Huachuca we had a winter storm pass by, and there... just hanging on the horizion, vaulting from edge to edge of the sky was a perfect pair of rainbows, and a broken arc (for the top of the sky was too small to hold it) was the third.

But humid... gah! The past couple of weeks here in DC (from which I leave for Seattle this morning, and not a moment too soon) have been hot, still and muggy. To go out of doors is to have (even as barely cooled as I keep my room) my glasses fog.

The air itself feels as though a wool-blanket, freshly lifted from a boiling soak has been wrapped around me.

No, give me the southwest, where (as Theresa points out) the nights are cool, even when the says will fry eggs, the shade is dry enough to let sweat work.

And for the desert skies at night.... Joshua Tree can be navigated by starlight, and there were moments in Iraq when it wasn't so bad... Scorpio dragging his tail in the Milky Way can make up for a lot of homesick.

Terry K.

#29 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2003, 04:13 PM:

Being able to see the stars is halfway home. If I'm lucky, I get a clear night or two each year when I'm teaching on Martha's Vineyard.

Choose:
Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.