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Fireflies like little variable stars

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Posted by SXN on June 11, 2012 - 3:35pm

While checking out my bedroom window for clear skies the other night, I noticed the first fireflies of the season, blinking and darting in the horse pasture behind the house. And it reminded me of a Robert Frost poem I couldn't quite recall. So this morning I looked it up on the internet. Gotta love Google.

Fireflies in the Garden
BY ROBERT FROST

Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part.

It reminded me that last year we had a bumper crop of fireflies. There were literally tens of thousands of them flashing, winking, diving and darting for hours each night in the field out back. Not often am I able to convince Irene that there is something worth her time and effort outdoors in the dark. She hates to get cold, and her eyesight is jacked from chemotherapy. Astronomy is not even on her list, unless its a fantastic display of aurora or an eclipse. But even she was impressed with the little buggers by the thousands as far as the eye could see.

I couldn't help but think how much they reminded me of thousands of little variable stars. Winged cataclysmic variables going into outburst at irregular intervals, but their sum in real time was like a visual music of the spheres. 

And like many things in nature, it couldn't be captured in a photograph or turned into bytes. No, you have to just take in the whole with your own eyes and enjoy it for what it is. No need to record it as data. Just eat it up in the now and soak in the miracle. And when it is all over you won't be ale to quantify it, or prove anything. But you know what you saw, and it is all yours, to share as you will...or not.

AAVSO 49 Bay State Rd. Cambridge, MA 02138 aavso@aavso.org 617-354-0484