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Entends-Tu Les Chiens Aboyer? – Vangelis March 29, 2012

Posted by thelastsongiheard in Personal Recollections, Reblogged.
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Ignacio (Album)
Ignacio (Album)

The last song I heard tonight was Entends-Tu Les Chiens Aboyer?  by Vangelis, from the album Ignacio. This is going to be a short post tonight because I’m pretty beat. I’ve had to get up every day at about 4:30am and then train from 6am to 3pm. On the plus side, I get out of work early – sometimes too early, as some eateries don’t open for dinner until 5pm.

I called you from my hotel but you weren’t home. In fact, you called me back right not long after I listened to this music. You told me about your swimming and your soccer practice and then, at the end of it all, as I was saying goodbye, you asked, “can I push the red button now?” 😛

Anyway, this music was used quite substantially in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, the documentary I wrote about a few weeks ago. I didn’t know what it was called for quite some time and Ignacio wasn’t an easy album to find at the time. Now you can easily order it from the internet.

This makes me think of the clear dark nights I spent under the stars in Lawton, Oklahoma. It was hard to do any real astronomy in England. My hometown, Luton, was too large and the light pollution was too bad. I couldn’t really get far enough from the lights and, consequently, there was always a dismal orange glow in the sky.

To make matters worth, Luton is almost 52 degrees north and I never really got to see anything of the southern constellations, such as Scorpius or Sagittarius. The first time I saw either was when I flew out to see Wendy in New York, in late June of 2000.

There were so many deep sky wonders that I feared I would never get the chance to see – the  Lagoon, Trifid, Eagle and Dumbbell nebulae, the globular clusters of Sagittarius, Ptolemy’s Cluster, the Butterfly Cluster… a myriad of double stars. I had read about these sights and seen the pictures in books and magazines but figured my skies were too bright or too northerly to see such faint fuzzies.

I originally bought the Orion 4.5 XT Dobsonian for your big brother, when I first came over to visit in September 2003. I bought it online, from England, and had it shipped to your Mum’s apartment. We took it to a cabin one weekend, where I assembled it and we looked at the stars. Mars was still close to opposition at that time too and I remember squinting at that from a park in Lawton.

It wasn’t until I’d emigrated and we were living in the house we bought that I truly had a chance to get back under the stars. We moved into that house in late August, 2005 – our first day was actually the day after our first anniversary and the summer stars were still visible. I started to use the telescope almost immediately and within days (or more precisely, nights) I was finding some of the things I had always wished I could see. The Lagoon Nebula was one of the first. I also saw Uranus for the first time too, closely followed by Neptune – the last time I’d seen that distant blue world was twenty years previously with the Luton Astronomical Society.

I was lucky because that house was like a square donut – it had an enclosed courtyard in the middle and the walls were high enough to block the light from the streetlamps on the road. Also, luckily for me, Lawton didn’t use nearly as many streetlamps as my hometown of Luton. In fact, the biggest light polluter was a nearby car dealership.

So I’d wait until everyone had gone to bed and then set up the ‘scope in the courtyard. It was fantastic. Sometimes, if your Mum was still awake, I’d persuade to come outside too, but she never stayed out for long. I loved every minute.

It became an adventure – every moonless Friday and Saturday night I would be outside, determined to find something new. And I did. More often than not, I’d find 2 or 3 new wonders. I knew I wasn’t the first to see them, but it was exciting all the same. I’d usually go looking for an object of interest – sometimes I’d see it, sometimes I wouldn’t – but occasionally, I’d stumble onto something unexpected. I’d dash back inside to the office and check my software to identify it. Another stellar treasure bagged.

I saw comets, double stars, nebulae, star clusters, galaxies… everything… but let me tell you about one of my favourite memories. It involves you, James 🙂

I started taking pictures of the Moon – I found a way to adjust the settings on our digital camera to make it easy. I set the ISO to 100 (because the Moon is bright) and raised the shutter speed so the exposure time was as short as possible. I held the camera up to the eyepiece, held it as steadily as I could, pressed the button and hoped for the best. About one in four was a keeper.

The problem was that my photos were mostly of the Moon when it was waxing – between new moon and full moon. The reason for this is because when the Moon is waxing, it always rises before sunset. Actually, the full moon always rises at sunset. I would sometimes get photos of the slightly post-full moon but I never got photos of the last quarter moon and waning crescent moon because they always rose after midnight. (Waning is when the Moon is between being Full and New.)

That is, until the week before you were born. One Sunday night, August 13th 2006, we thought you were on your way because your Mum started having contractions. My Mum and Dad had come over for your birth so we all rushed off to the hospital. A few hours later, you weren’t with us yet so Mum and Dad went home with your big brother and I stayed with your Mum. It was about one in the morning before the doctors finally agreed you’d changed your mind and sent us home.

“We’ll see you for sure tomorrow,” they said.

James’ Moon. (Click to enlarge)

We got home and your Mum went to bed but I was still somewhat awake. It was a last quarter moon and I realised this was my chance to get that elusive photo. I was determined to get a photo of the moon on the day you were born and if you were coming later that day, this would be the perfect opportunity. Plus it would be my first last quarter moon photo.

I snapped a couple of pics and rushed inside to see what I’d got. One of them was a gem. It was taken at 2:29am on Monday, August 14th, 2006. I figured this would be your birthday moon photo.

But it was not to be. You didn’t arrive that day. You kept us waiting another eight days and, of course, you being you, you picked the day of the new moon and the moon wasn’t visible. This photo was as close as I got.

I was a little disappointed but I’m glad you’re here. I still sang “…give you a night, dipped in moonshine…” to you 🙂

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