poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘stargazing

keeping watch for dragons #8 – campfire dragon

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Late summer is the time for campfires.  We have to be careful, of course, to make sure there is no risk of forest fire and campfires are permitted.  But on an evening when the fire index hotline says OK, and we have a small stack of wood beside the fire pit and a bench for sitting, there is no better way to pass an evening.

Campfires are great places for telling stories.  They are also good places to dream and remember.   A campfire means getting smoke in your eyes, so the images can be a little blurry.  You can watch the sparks lift from the fire and ascend into the dark night.  The question is, are they also watching you … ?



campfire dragons 


dragons prowl

in balsam

back crawl in amber

blisters of pitch


dragons lurk

under mantles of smoke

blacken the stones

spurt throatfuls of fire


dragons leap

to the Drago sky

watch us grow small

with sparking eyes


close their lids

and sleep in flight



©  Jane Tims 1998

Written by jane tims

August 24, 2012 at 7:15 am

places off-planet #6 – the ‘Coathanger’ asterism

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Most people have never seen my favourite star grouping, but if you use binoculars and can locate two key stars, I think you could see it too.  It is the ‘Coathanger’ asterism (or group of stars), also known as Collinder 366, Al Sufi’s Cluster, or Brocchi’s Cluster.  It looks like a little upside-down coathanger.  It was first described by the Persian astronomer Al Sufi in 964 AD!

The ‘Coathanger’ is in the constellation Vulpecula in the ‘Summer Triangle’.  To find the ‘Coathanger’, use the binoculars to sweep the Milky Way from the star ‘Altair’ towards the bright star ‘Vega’.   The ‘Coathanger’ is found about one-third of the way from Altair to Vega.

photo is from Wikimedia Commons

original contributor DannyZ



coat hangers, closets and stars 



metal hangers


refuse to cooperate


tangled                    twisted



her closet

built for grace

satin hangers

muffled           plumped      and padded

kind to arthritic hands


pearl buttons to catch

her dresses

before they slip

to the floor



between Altair and Vega

Brocchis’ Coathanger Cluster

also known as Collinder 399

suspends the fabric of sky


with binoculars

this fuzzy patch of light


to ten           splendid           stars


strong little hanger

oversized hook




©  Jane Tims  2011

Written by jane tims

May 26, 2012 at 8:08 am

places off-planet #5 – Comet Hale-Bopp 1996

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Comet Hale-Bopp could be seen from Earth in late 1996 and early 1997.  Its strange name is from the independent co-discoverers, Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp.  Hale-Bopp was a large comet, with a nucleus of about 60 miles in diameter.  It had two visible tails, one of gas and one of dust, and had a third tail of sodium.  It has been called the most-observed comet in history.  Hale-Bopp won’t be back until 4385!

I have no specific memory of Hale-Bopp itself, although I do remember a common saying in our household in 1997 was to greet almost every out-of-place object with “Hail!  Bopp!”.  The poem I wrote after seeing the comet is all I have to know how it appeared to me.

Do you remember seeing Hale-Bopp?

photo from Wikimedia Commons, taken by Philipp Salzgeber





also a comet


Hail! bright star


a flare in the western sky

a diamond


a sparkler

embedded in smoke



©  Jane Tims  1997

Written by jane tims

May 14, 2012 at 8:09 am

places off-planet #4 – Comet Hyakutake 1996

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Comet Hyakutake had a nucleus of about 2 km in diameter and a tail-length of 570 million km.  The Ulysses spacecraft is known to have flown through Haykutake’s tail.  One of the comet’s notable characteristics was its blue-green color.  It was bright to the naked eye for only a few days.

I remember Hyakutake as a ‘knock-you-off-your-feet’ surprise.  I knew it could be seen, but I hadn’t made any effort to look for it.  One night as I arrived home, I saw it shining through the trees at the end of the driveway, and climbed the snowbank at the end of the drive to investigate.  I saw the comet and literally stumbled backward in amazement!

Did you see Comet Hyakutake in 1996?


photo is from Wikimedia Commons

taken by E. Kolmhofer and H. Raab of the Johannes-Kepler-Observatory




a comet


she runs in the solar wind

pale night woman

her face to the sun

hair and petals     streaming


ephemeral, strewn in whispers

soft fistfuls of light

tresses tangled

in the fingers of the forest



©  Jane Tims  1997

Written by jane tims

May 11, 2012 at 9:04 am

places off-planet #1 – watching the stars

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For me, star-gazing is a warm-weather activity.  The winter, although dazzling in its displays of stars, is too cold for my arthritic joints and the immobility of prolonged star study.

So, as May approaches, I am looking forward to spending some time outside, to locate some old friends in the sky and to meet some new sky-folk!

I am lucky to live in an area not overly polluted with night light.  At our home, although trees make viewing sporadic, stray light from street and yard lights is not a problem.  At our lake property, the surroundings are utterly dark and the sky is stunning, studded with stars.

If you want to do some stargazing, you need three things to get a good start:

  •      a star chart or a planisphere (a combination of a star chart and a viewer). My favourite planisphere is downloadable and printable, from the National Research Council at

  •      a reclining lawn chair (so you can relax and your neck will not ache)
  •      a flashlight with a clear red cover (this is to prevent your eyes from becoming light-adapted as you check the star-chart).

Another helpful item, to see groupings of stars more clearly, or to see details of the moon:

  •      a pair of binoculars

Are you a stargazer?  What are your favorite ‘tools-of-the-trade’?



the search for wind

and stars


these are not the winds I sought to stand in

I wanted a zephyr to ruffle the bluets in spring

a breeze to whip the silver wind chime to frenzy


instead I cower from night moans

the rattle at the window

the street where a dust daemon lurks

near every wall, lifts the leaves

grinds them to powder


I gaze at the skies

watch for Altair and Orion

the never- random pulse to signal man


but all the lights in the night sky

are not stars

the moon who solemn watches

as his face is peeled away

the comet drawing scant thoughts across darkness

its tears a storm of falling stars


I walk with sorrow

it rests behind the eyes

and cannot swell to tears


the truth so simple

yet impossible to know-

you need only stand

and the hill will form beneath your feet

and the roaring shrink

to the breath of love across your face


©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

April 27, 2012 at 7:09 am

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