One of the real bonuses of living in the middle of nowhere here in the Tamar Valley is the absence of much light pollution beyond our own, and over that obviously we have complete control.
We have been very careful not to instal arc lights that could be seen from Plymouth, though we can see the city-glow over the distant horizon. Nor did we want lights that flick on as you walk past because every passing cat/fox/badger would set those off, so we have various circuits of lights running on low energy bulbs around the outside of the house which suit us fine. The pitch dark is most welcome on a star-spangled night because we can skywatch in our own private planetarium, or most recently we can Space Station watch.
Chris Hadfield is the current Commander of the International Space Station, a Canadian astronaut who has taken the art of social media into space with him, tweeting and updating Facebook with the most astonishing pictures of the planet that I have ever seen.
I have 'borrowed' some because I know many of you may not be tweeting facebookers, and I can't bear not to share them, so I hope I don't get shot.
And just look at Prince Edward Island, Anne of Green Gables country..
It would be easy to become parochial when you have set your boundaries of exploration for a project like Beating the Bounds to that mile radius around the house as I have, so I will admit that I was thrilled to see this shot of Plymouth, (the Breakwater clearly visible in Plymouth Sound) the River Tamar and Dartmoor...
There's us up on the left somewhere.
So as well as considering what may lie beneath my feet, I am looking up above too, at what is over my head, and thanks to NASA that now includes the Space Station passes.
You can sign up for an email from NASA, which, based on your country and postcode will alert you to an imminent ISS pass in the night sky above you. If you haven't seen it yet you are missing something simple but special... there is something very extraordinary about seeing this bright light travel across the sky before your eyes, and to think there is a little world of work and research going on up there, with people inside.
This is the best my camera could manage but you get the gist...
Though only visible for three to four minutes before it disappears, the ISS is easy to spot once you know what to look for, basically the brightest fastest moving 'star' in the sky, and the NASA e mail will give you bearings so you know exactly where to look. We now greet it whenever it passes over us on a clear night, and as I stand and watch, and take in the beauty of Chris Hadfield's pictures each day, it has become a daily exercise in thinking both above and beyond the ordinary and the earthly. To look up, but also to look down on earth in this way really stretches and extends my perspective and the bounds of the imagination, and I for one will really miss his updates and observations when Chris returns to earth next month.
And here's a short video from Chris Hadfield explaining how he takes the shots using a great big floaty camera. All hail Commander Chris, and thank you.