Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mouth of the Fish

I discovered a star tonight: Fomalhaut... aka Fum al Hut (Arabic for "mouth of the fish").

I was at Point Dume, a volcanic intrusion, on Zuma Beach in Malibu about 6:30 pm.

Sitting at the base of the huge precipice of rock, I noticed a bright star in the thin gap between the cliff and a 30-foot boulder broken off the cliff.  

I watched the star slowly slip to my right behind the boulder as Earth turned and wondered whether it was a star or a planet.  

Later I stood up and walked to where I could see the whole southern sky.  This star was very bright--1.2 magnitude, as I later learned, and it was the only one in that part of the sky.  

With the light pollution from Los Angeles, I couldn't really see Scorpio or Sagitarrius or the Milky Way.

I saw one reddish star and thought it was Antares in Scorpio but later learned it was Mars.  Scorpio had already slipped beneath the western horizon of the sea.

I could see Cygnus the swan and Aquila, the eagle, but east of them only this one unknown star.

Once I looked at the star map at home, I learned that Fomalhaut "lies in quite a barren region of the southern sky and because of this has become known as "The Solitary One" (The Nature Company Guides: Advanced Skywatching, p.269).

It's in Pisces Austrinus, which is down in the southern sky below Aquarius.  

What a lovely time, nestled in a lap of volcanic rock, watching the stars and the waves, safe in the shadow of the mighty intrusion.

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