By E. Dan Klepper
The night skies of Texas’ Big Bend country often mesmerize in ways that mirror the peculiarities of dark dreams and lullabies. Here, above the crest and trough of a mountain horizon, nighttime skies are at their most dramatic, offering rare glimpses of moons and comets and galaxies in full spectrum or eclipsed in orbit shadow. In the late hours especially, far beyond midnight, the West Texas skies seem to delight in the unraveling of the firmament. Perhaps it is because the routine touchstones—Orion, the Pleiades, Sirius, and the Dippers—are now hanging askew, reassigned to unfamiliar bearings, or are hurtling toward the horizon to become something else entirely. Or maybe it is the mischievous temperament of the sky itself, aware that the few who glance up and into the deepest late night are bleary-eyed and farthest from doubt. These moments, made manifest before the unwitting, provide the wily universe a chance to perform atmospherics unlike those that ever inhabit consciousness. Beyond mere spectacles that occur once each year or in a lifetime or even a millennium, these nightly pageants are proof of the mythic fires in the sky, highlighting a short list of events that have yet to feel the compromise of a man-made world.
From the February 2009 issue.