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7 12 2008

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SN2014J

2 02 2014

For almost half a century, every time
I read the word “Supernova” I imagined
Standing outside, on a cold, clear night,
Seeing a hole punched in the sky;
The hide of heaven punctured, allowing the light
Of a more brilliant, more beautiful universe to come surging through,
A Niagara Falls of photons
Brighter than any Full Moon.

After all, those woodcuts, engravings and paintings on cave walls
All showed a spectacular sight:
Something beyond bright, a cosmic Maglite shining
Right in Earth’s eye,
And as the years passed I grew impatient to see
Something like that above me,
A freshly-lit cosmic beacon burning above my town,
Above my hills and trees…

In my mind’s eye I always saw my
First supernova shining amongst the stars of winter.
High, somewhere above Orion,
Its icy rays slicing through the Pleiades, putting nearby
Rigel and Sirius to shame; I pictured
A celestial welding flame so insanely bright
It would cast swaying shadows behind me as I stood there
Staring, staring…

…but instead what I saw was a barely there
Pinprick peeking through a puff of smoke,
A mere silvery mote – even when magnified a dozen times –
Off to one side in a telescope’s eyepiece on a night
Of scudding clouds and mist-dimmed stars,
As I stood in the mud, in a car park.

Tempting… so, so human… to groan “Oh, is that it?”
But grossly unfair.  Remember, I scolded myself, there, so hard to see
Through the fur on the Great Bear’s shoulder,
A star has blown itself apart..!
Not today, but, as the poster says,
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
So far away the light entering our eyes tonight
Set off when Mankind still swung from trees
And the delight of walking upright was just a dream,
Ten million years from waking…

So don’t dismiss that distant fleck of light too soon.
That’s the Universe bursting a balloon
Behind our backs, laughing as we run, stumbling
To our telescopes, desperate to know more,
Desperate to drink in its beauty while trying hard
Not to think of the fate of its family of worlds,
Or wonder if that star had been a civilisation’s Sun
Before it turned itself inside out,
Its neutrino-drenched death met with the terrified shouts
And screams of billions of beings as the ground
Beneath their feet blistered then shattered,
Their planets’ dusty remains scattered like crushed dry leaves…

© Stuart Atkinson 2014

Below: a photo of the supernova taken by myself at the Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre at Ennerdale on Jan 31st 2014

SN arrow

 

 





ROSETTA WAKES

24 01 2014

…and then, suddenly,
A candle flame of consciousness
Quivers in the darkness
And Rosetta is awake.

At the start, the pulse of her electronic heart
Barely a flutter, but enough
To rouse her from her drowsy sleep
And pull her out of her dreams.

Slowly, slowly, memories return…
The rust-encrusted globe of Mars burning
Up ahead, Barsoom looming
Like a bloated red giant star before she swooped
Over its pole, Osiris’ single eye briefly catching sight
Of timeless clouds and craters
Through gaps in the great solar arrays
Before Ares fell behind, never to be seen again…

Lutetia – old, cold and grey,
Swimming up out from the depths of space
Like a lone, stone shark before sinking back into the Dark…
Earth gleaming a million different hues
Of emerald green and sapphire blue,
Its disc shrinking to a fingernail-clipping thin
Crescent so beautiful it would have reduced
Any window-crowding crew to tears…

All that is behind her now.
Darkness crowds in on all sides
As she rubs the sleep from her eyes,
Feeling the solar wind whispering o’er her wings,
Stretching and yawning,
Hearing her comet, and destiny, calling…

© Stuart Atkinson 2014





PINNACLE

19 01 2014

Where did you come from, little one?
That plate of rock was bare, I swear,
Then suddenly you were there,
Basking in the sunlight, right where
We would see you. Just sitting there,
Looking up at us,
Like Dug in “Up”,
Grinning, tail wagging and sweeping
The dust away as we gazed down at you
Wondering  “What the..???”

So many theories whizzing around the Web
About your origin there’s almost no room left
For gifs of sleeping kittens’ twitching ears
Or Kim Kardashian’s rear.
Did you really fall from the sky?
A meteorite?  Hmmm. Seems unlikely that
With all of Barsoom to choose from
You’d land barely a hand’s width away
From the most curious robot
On the planet, but who knows?

Others cry “Ejecta!”
Could they be right? Did you really fly
Here after being blasted from the ground
By some rock falling at the speed of sound
Out of the sky?
If so, a brand new crater lies nearby,
Surrounded by others just like you –
A second Christmas for geologists
Who would give anything to have the rover roll
Up to its jagged rim to see what hides within…

Perhaps you were simply tiddly-wink flicked here,
Kicked up by the rover itself
To fall a short distance away?
It’s possible. After all, unlike her brash big
Sister’s wounded wheels, increasingly ripped and torn
By a Banth’s raking claws,
MERB’s are still whole
And easily strong enough to scuff
A rogue rock up off the ground,
To be found nearby next Sol…

But I wonder… Had Opportunity  looked up quickly
Would she have seen mischevious martian kids
Standing nearby, caught red (or green?) handed,
Frozen to the spot, ready to throw the stone?
Are they still there, hiding behind her,
Biding their time, daring each other  to try again?

© Stuart Atkinson 2014

 

image1c





Losing Lovejoy

14 01 2014

 

…and there you are again, still shining
Stubbornly above the trees,
An on-the-very-edge-of-sight star
Far to icy Vega’s lower right,
Bathed in lonely Rasalhague’s glow.
Nowhere near as easy to see as you were
On Christmas Eve; your head no longer
That bright, Kryptonite green
It was while our longing eyes
Were fixed on lying ISON.

There you are again, old friend,
A sky wraith, fading away,
Still shining softly as darkness greys
And birds wake to greet the approaching dawn with song.
I’ve followed you for many Moons now,
Watched you grow from a lowly smear
In an eyepiece on a star-spattered Kielder night
To an emerald green, lace-tailed light
Above frost-whitened fells
Playing hide and seek through scudding clouds,
Your tail, clipped from a vapour trail,
Drawn in pastel shades of lavender and blue
As you fell silently through the sky,
Gliding past Procyon before flying fearlessly
Beneath the Beehive and slipping through
The gap between Cancer’s nipping claws,
Brightening, tail growing,
Shamefully ignored as ISON fever gripped the world,
People everywhere unaware Another was there
For them to see…

Almost gone now, almost gone.
It won’t be long before you’re lost to me.
But ‘til then every chance I have to see
You fading into the night
With these sleep-deprived eyes  I’ll take,
And treasure.

© Stuart Atkinson 2014





Farewell ISON

24 12 2013

On a dozen frosty dawns I watched for you;

Hauled telescopes and cameras up that icy, muddy track,

A map- and binoculars-stuffed rucksack on my back,

All to get just one more glimpse of you glowing feebly above the trees,

A barely-there faraway flare of green

Far fainter than you should have been…

Others gave up on you, packed their gear away to await the day

Of your solar roller-coaster ride, but I

Kept my faith in you, and every fleeting chance I had to catch

A glimpse of you I grabbed with both cold-numbed hands,

Standing in the castle’s jagged shadows, hunting for your so weak glow

Through gaps in the low scudding clouds…

A week before Perihelion I saw you for the last time –

A hint of lime between twin lines of churning black;

A tiny emerald eye peeping out from the folds

Of the clouds’ dark cloak just long enough for one last photo

To be stolen before fading away –

Forever.

My loyalty was misplaced, my optimism wasted.

I never saw you again.

Instead of screeching around the Sun and leaping

Triumphantly up into my evening sky you died,

Ripped apart by the corona’s clutching claws,

Leaving only a smear of dust behind,

So thinly-spread and faint now I hear not even Hubble’s

Staring Cyclops eye can find what’s left of you…

The scientists shrugged off your demise;

Already delighted with their shiny data

They still rated you a great comet, happy to pour

Over their charts and graphs like warlocks learning spells,

Their spider scrawl Afrho equations  incantations

To solve the Oort’s beyond-ancient mysteries…

But those of us who had dreamed of seeing you

Painted on the sky, who dared imagine a gossamer-trailing firefly

Shining through the golden pre-dawn light

Despaired at the unfairness of it all.

Staring forlornly at SDO’s empty field of view that day

We knew there would be no treasured photographs of you

Cutting the sky in two;  no breathless “Look at that..!” sighs

At the sight of your torch-beam tail rising behind the hills;

No stories told in future years of hearing children laughing

With delight as they stared at you That Night

Through a telescope, seeing the ghostly streamers trailing away

From you like ribbons blowing in the wind…

None of those things were ever meant to be.

“ISON” was never destined to be written on that Facebook-debated list

Of Great Comets next to “Lovejoy”, “Halley” and “Hale-Bopp”;

You’re just another “One That Got away”.

No doubt next time a fainter-than-faint smudge is spotted

Moving through the stars we’ll remember what we learned

From you, and thank you.

But today, looking sadly at an empty sunset,

Staring bitterly at the sky where you should have been,

That day seems a long, long way away…

© Stuart Atkinson 2013





ISON Approaching…

15 10 2013

 

 

Still not a naked eye sight, but brightening,

Dawn-dewed telescopes reveal your tail

Stretching out at last: a narrow Maglite beam

Pointing back towards the Oort.

Your head glows a Wicked emerald green,

Shining like a shard of Kryptonite

Heading for the heart of the Sun,

And every clear morning now, as the eastern sky lightens

With the violet blush of dawn, more and more eyes

Swing towards you, searching for you

In the spilled salt star-field behind

The ruddy spark of Mars,

A whispered “Yes!” celebrating each success…

 

 

Inevitably your Green Lantern light

Has sent the crazies scuttling out

From under their cyber-stones like woodlice.

Cowering from chemtrail criss-crossed skies,

Hidden in the Bat Caves of their parents’ basements,

Wannabe Muldurs tap away on keyboards beneath

Faded “The Truth Is Out There” posters,

Swamping YouTube with their deluded diarrhoea,

Desperate to generate and spread fear

With tall tales of “ISON Debris Hitting Earth NOW!”

 

 

This Comet Craziness is nothing new, it’s true.

In 1910, when Halley’s cyanide-laced tail

Tenderly brushed Earth’s face

Moustache-twirling conmen made fortunes

Selling comet pills and “Are you my mummy?” gas masks

To the frightened and naïve who believed

What they read in newspaper and shop window ads,

As others blew whistles to scare the comet away.

 

 

A century later have we finally learned to stop fearing

And love these icy visitors from the depths of the Dark?

No. Today, ignoring the dozens of pixellated portraits

Spacecraft have taken of these icy visitors,

The internet-infesting halfwit hordes scream their lies

At the sky louder than ever. No fantasy is too extreme.

Shouting “Alert! ISON is not a comet!”,

Preppers, ‘Pastors’ and ‘Professors’ rant and rave about grave dangers

From gigantic sparks arcing between you

And the Sun; wonder why Mars has suddenly grown

A coma of its own after its Close Encounter of the Faraway Kind

With you and your poisonous tail, which,

They are convinced, is trailing captured Doomsday asteroids

Like tin cans tied to a newly-wed bride and grooms’ car.

 

 

Concealed behind their Anonymous masks

They breathlessly ask “Is Comet ISON Nibiru?”

Others insist “It’s Wormwood!” or “a fleet of UFOs!”,

Shamelessly and shamefully regurgitating

The same BS they spread when Elenin passed this way

And their make believe Mayan calendars ran out,

Conveniently forgetting how those shouted predictions

Of Armageddon failed to come true…

 

 

Oblivious to it all you continue your fall towards the Sun,

Bathing in its increasingly golden light,

Basking in a delicious thawing warmth

You’ve never felt before.

Mars is far behind you now;

The CCD eyes of Earth’s invasion fleet of orbiters

And rovers have swung away from you,

Surrendering you to the relentless gaze

Of the skywatchers on the blue-green star

Shining off to Sol’s side,

Standing in their gardens and fields before sunrise,

Desperate for our first sight of you…

 

© Stuart Atkinson 2013





The First Starship

13 09 2013

 

I needed no nacelles to push me onwards;
No dilithium crystals crackled in my heart.
Yet I have left Sol so far behind me she is
Just a star now, a golden spark in a salt grain sea,
And I can feel her gentle breath on my cheek
No more.

In my ears now the whalesong of the universe
Drowns out the sounds of distant, troubled Earth.
Oh, the blissful peace!
Out here all I can hear
Is the fabled music of the spheres.
Each trembling tone rolling under me,
Every mellow note washing over me
Was sung somewhere Out There.
Melodies ripped from ravenous black holes’ throats,
Screamed from the broken hearts of dying stars
Swirl around me, multi-wavelength whispers
In the dark and endless night.

My head is full of memories…
Skimming Titan’s marmalade-haze atmosphere;
My first sight of Jove’s great bloodshot eye,
Staring back at me, into me, as I flew by;
Earth as Pale Blue Dot, a Sagan sequin
Dancing in a sunbeam…

Ahead now – the solar system’s Barrier Reef.
Terra will whip around Sol 300 times before
I reach the Oort’s icy inner harbour wall
And tens of thousands of times more before
I finally leave port, sailing on in serene silence
For forty millennia more before I venture anywhere
Near another star…

And in ten million years, when Earth’s proud citadels
And cities have crumbled and whatever evolves
In their dust to take Mankind’s place
Stares out into space with curious, alien eyes,
I will still be flying through the stars.
Your legacy. Proof that once you dared to dream
Noble, Camelot dreams
And reached out, through me, to explore eternity.

(c) Stuart Atkinson Sept 13th 2013

 

Written to commemorate and celebrate the Sept 12th announcement that Voyager 1 had entered interstellar space.








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