Notes From Down Under

My wife, Marci, holds reasonably still for a 30-second-long time exposure on my iPhone, kinda/sorta secured to a selfie stick with a plastic tripod bottom. That’s the Milky Way as seen from Down Under in Collingwood, NZ.

“My dad would’ve LOVED these views.”

That’s one of the thoughts, emotions really, that ran through my head each time I looked up at the New Zealand heavens.

So would’ve Paul Splitstone, my college Astronomy professor, who would drag out the biggest telescopes he could find and plunk them down in the middle of campus for us to come out and play with. Not for credit, not for anything other than the wonder of peering through the glass at nebulas, planets and the impossible-seeming rings of Saturn.

Pulling into our New Plymouth, NZ, Airbnb — tired and a bit grumpy — we literally saw this in our rearview mirror and pulled over. Check-in would wait another 15 minutes.

My dad and Professor Splitstone helped foster my love of looking up at night. My wife and my iPhone helped me capture an ounce, a fraction of the beauty of the stars of the Southern Hemisphere during our month Down Under. On at least five separate nights we were far enough (or high enough) from light pollution, the skies were clear and we weren’t dog tired.

This was our stunning New Plymouth, NZ, Airbnb overlooking the Tasman Sea. But how lucky were WE to be overlooked by the explosion of stars?!

A memory from decades ago was triggered like a flash from a distant galaxy when I saw two puffy, strange clouds adjacent to the Milky Way. Yes, there they were, The Large Magellanic Cloud and the Small Magellanic Cloud, (and the Southern Cross as well!)

Snippets of old songs kept running through my head as we snapped these long exposures using only an iPhone 13 Pro Max and a selfie stick with a tripod base to get 30-second-long exposures. Feel free to hum along.

This time it was my turn to hold still (ish) for 30 seconds as Marci took her turn composing the celestial selfie.

“His path was marked by the

stars in the Southern Hemisphere …”

— Paul Simon

Even though you may not believe me, that’s the MOON up above the hydrangea bowl on our porch.

“Are the stars out tonight (sha bop sha bop)

I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright (sha bop)…”

— The Flamingos

Those four stars in a tilted kite formation are the Southern Cross.

“When you see the Southern Cross for the first time,

you understand now why you came this way…”

— Steven Stills

Marci attempts a slow exposure overlooking Piha Beach, New Zealand.

“There’s a star man waiting in the sky,

He’d like to come and meet us,

but he thinks he’d blow our minds…”

— David Bowie

The sea is reflected below as the stars, Milky Way and a distant plane or satellite slowly streaks by above.

“‘Cause you’re a sky,

’cause you’re a sky full of stars…”

— Coldplay

And now for something completely different: While swimming in our amazing “rooftop” pool on our Auckland hotel’s 4th floor, I snapped the moon with the stubborn stars, shining through New Zealand’s biggest city’s glare.

Greetings From The Edge Of The World

The Stars of the Southern Hemisphere

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