Monday, March 09, 2009

Constellation O'Hare

One of the saddest things about living in Chicago -- or any city, for that matter -- and about modern life, generally, is that the cocoons we've built for ourselves make us lose track of the natural world. In Chicago, most stars you see are part of the Milky Way (as are we). But you really can't see many stars, because of the city lights, so you never see THE MILKY WAY.

I remember, too long ago, standing one night with Suellen and friends on the shore of Lake Superior's Whitefish Point, looking up at the incredible swatch of stars arcing over our heads. What a remarkable, humbling sight. It is no wonder that the ancients recognized Orion, Cassiopeia's Chair, and Andromeda. Too many people never see them.

Instead, let me introduce you to Constellation O'Hare. You can see it in the sky, looking east from the front steps of our house.

Can you see the stars, forming a diagonal from upper left to bottom right? You might need to click on the picture to expand it. Of course, those are not really stars, but are the lights of airplanes lined up to land at O'Hare Airport -- about 2 minutes between them.

In the city, we find our inspiration wherever we can.


Jeannelle said...

Are you serious? Those are planes lined up to land? Seriously cool. That is certainly not something we ever see out here in rural Iowa.

troutay said...

I was looking at the sky last night.
It was clear and star filled. I always watch for Orion, and there he was!
Up in the BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area) the stars seem so close you can almost touch them. But the clearest night I have seen was in camping in the Superstition Mts in Arizona. Wow!

Sempringham said...

Yep, I'm serious. From some locations, on some nights, you can see as many as seven planes lined up. There's more to it than that, though.

Do you see that very dim dot below the left-hand "star", close to the horizon? That's a plane in another line-up, further to the north. On clear nights like this was, O'Hare has two runways open for landing. If you're in one of the planes in the left-hand line, you can look out the right-hand window and see one or two planes that will be landing at about the same time you are, but about a half-mile away.


One of my best sky-watching nights was in the Southwest, too. I was camping with my oldest brother in Nevada, and there was a meteor shower. Incredible.