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Sammy the lunar pixel
When we saw how clear the sky was, and how assiduous Ploktaroth the Sky Dragon was being in consuming the moon, we bundled the kids into the car and drove to somewhere where we managed to be yards from the nearest street light.

Of course, we would probably have done better if we had worked out how to get our 'posh' camera to take long exposures before we went. Somehow I made it work once, I have no idea how, on the landscape setting with a self-timer, and this icon is the result.

Marianne was inspired by it all, and she also saw a constellation, possibly for the first time ever. "It looks like a question mark in the sky!" she explained, and so it did. I made a mental note that this summer, at some festival or at Centerparcs, we must get her to look up.

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A question mark in the sky is probably the tail of Scorpio. Its quite distinct, and looks just like that (while the body of Scorpio is more like a vague triangular patch).

Scorpio's not visible this time of year though, at least not in early evening when presumably Marianne saw her constellation. It might have been the "sickle" of Leo (the head and front of the Lion). The Pleiades (sp?) also sometimes look like a question mark, but they also aren't that visible right now, and more often look like a tiny version of the dippers.

(We couldn't see the eclipse here, much less constellations -- it was snowing!)

The question mark in the sky was the Plough (Big Dipper), almost vertical, high in the London night sky in February.

Scorpio? Pleiades? Leo? Even having gone a little way away from lights, we could still only see a few of the very brightest stars that were highest in the sky, and nothing anywhere near the horizon.

Normally we can't see any stars at all from the area around our house. (It's funny, actually; the long exposures of moon shots on my *other* camera show the brightest stars around the moon; I couldn't see them at all). I wasn't remotely kidding about my child not knowing about the night sky; she only knows about constellations from reading about them in the context of Greek myths.

It wasn't early evening -- totality was from about 10:30pm to midnight. I perhaps should have said that we actually got the kids out of bed; they were wearing pyjamas, coats and shoes to go stargazing. We perhaps could have planned this better. But my brother believes you should deliberately create events for kids to remember, whereas I'm a great believer in weird spontaneous things.

Great idea to show the kids the eclipse. It was fantastic from here, and I took many photos. one of my attempts is in my icon. Sorry to copy, but you did get there first, as i acknowledge in my journal.

Stars, cigarettes in my pocket and grains of sand

I'm not about to give up urban living either, but it is fun to take advantage of a good cosmic event to enthuse young minds. Penny loves the moon, and is just starting to register stars (we get some here).

A few years ago we went to stay with my erstwhile gameshow buddy Mr S, at his house, DunFannin, in Askam in Furness on the edge of the Lakes. There's a beach by the town, with minimal light pollution. After closing time we strolled down and sat on a bench regarding the whole Milky Way, which, being a city boy, I'd not seen for a long time (ever?) in such splendour.

Yes, it was pitch black out there. Bu having been to the Sellafield visitors centre earlier, we were able to navigate by our own glow.

Mr S (full name withheld out of respect as he was always keen on his privacy, but most of you know who I mean) also owned a splendid telescope for more detailed examination of celestial bodies. One day the cat walked along the high wall next to where he sets it up peered down the other end. He nearly died of fright.

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