On a really really clear night in Beijing you could see 4 or 5 stars. On a high pollution day, where the sky is covered in a think dirty fog and you feel,like your breathing sewerage flavoured soup, there is no sky. There truly is something liberating about going outside at night to see a sky full of stars. Maybe it’s one of the reasons I didn’t enjoy my stay in China.
When I was back in Australia for two months, I spent most of my time outside the cities. I had a few trips to Sydney for some education but otherwise I was in rural, less light polluted climes. My timing, for once was pretty good. The Milky Way was in show off mode in the Southern Hemisphere. I first realised when I was in country Victoria (south east corner of the country where Melbourne is. I went to get something out of my car and happened to look up. It wasn’t clear as day but you could see straight across the middle of the sky running north to south. There was a very clear outline of the Milky Way in all its glory.
With one hand I set up the camera on top of my car. With the other I checked Google to confirm the best settings for shooting the stars. I had an inkling but with the sky looking this magnificent I didn’t want to waste the opportunity. When you look up and the sky is something a little more than a black canvas covered in tiny pinholes of light from the past, you want to capture it and get it right.
The incredible thing about a starry starry night is how small and insignificant you feel but at the same time how incredibly fortunate you are to have those images travel from your eyes to your brain and then to your heart. You are in effect a time traveller. The light your looking at isn’t happening right now, it happened many millennia ago. Light only travels 3000000metres per second. The light from the nearest star took 4 years to get to here. The light from the Milky Way, around 100000 years. From the stars beyond, the furthest we can observe, 46.5 billion years.
So as the camera hummed away, I felt small but in a perfect combination with the gratitude that I got to do a little bit of time travelling