Windy Kansas and Nighttime Fall Sky

February 10, 2008


Provided and copyright by: Doug Zubenel, OwlEye Mobile Observatory
Summary authors & editors: Doug Zubenel 

The photo above showing a blurred swoosh of the wind-tossed trees below the swirl of star trails was taken in Linn County, Kansas, on the night of October 20, 2007. In eastern Kansas, October has more windy days and nights than any other month of the year. I had just finished taking a series of deep sky photos and was setting up my tent in order to get some sleep in preparation for the Orionid meteor shower, which would peak before dawn. While doing this, I set my camera to take a time exposure of the constellation of Cassiopeia rising over a stand of colorful deciduous trees.

The resulting image brought to mind one of Vincent van Gogh's most famous paintings, "The Starry Night." This masterwork, painted a mere 13 months before his suicide in 1890, powerfully captures the energy of the atmosphere -- the swirls reminiscent of mighty winds roaring through the night sky. It also made me think of an experience related by the progenitor of our national park system, the Scottish naturalist, John Muir. One windy night, in what would become Yosemite National Park, Muir deliberately climbed a tall tree in order to enjoy the swaying energy of the wind bending it this way and that. He once said, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." For me at least, this photograph brings to mind his sentiments.