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Adventures Between the N. Oregon Coast and the Rest of the Galaxy

Published 04/23/21 at 5:35 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Adventures Between the N. Oregon Coast and the Rest of the Galaxy

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(Manzanita, Oregon) – Yet another typical lovely January day on the Oregon coast. Well, it’s an oddly spring-like January day. It’s extraordinary in numerous ways, really a freakish event, one of those actually somewhat balmy days when blue skies abound and the winds are not much to mention. The ocean itself is rather calm and serene, with just the right amount power to create bundles of foam along the beaches of Manzanita.

It’s one of those days on the coast that are legendary, so engaging that when you hear about it you wish you had gone, and you kick yourself for not having played hooky from work. You were right to have kicked yourself for this. You screwed up by not screwing off.

The stunning parts of the day don’t stop in daylight, either.

As night falls in Seaside, the cove area gets especially mesmerizing. The yellow street lamps bathe the rocks of this jagged shoreline, and the city lights in the distance glow so brightly they paint the clouds above.

Meanwhile, a fog wanders in quickly. The Necanicum River becomes otherworldly from a vantage point near 101, where the various homes and condos become enveloped by an ever heavier mist. There are still some clear spots left in the sky, however. The river shows a lone star reflected in it – a preview of the astronomy lesson the north coast is about to impart.

Driving south on 101, it's interesting to note how the west side of the highway is foggy and the eastern side clear and full of stars. Then, as you pass Tillamook Head and edge towards Cannon Beach, the fog is gone. Starry conditions dominate the rest of the way, some 17 miles to Manzanita.

Once above Manzanita, at the Neahkahnie overlooks, the stars explode. The Milky Way Galaxy is clearly visible, and this enormous star field melds with the larger lights of crabbing boats on the horizon.

Of course, in order to photograph this sea of stars, you have to engage in 10-minute-long exposures, which means the stars will move considerably in that time and create a meandering mass of blurry lights.

They are all of different colors, too, which is fascinating on its own. The reason for this, according to Jim Todd of OMSI in Portland, is a double-edged sword of a trick of light, so to speak. Numerous gasses in the atmosphere cause these to become different colors, but these can't be seen by the human eye – only a photographic mechanical one. Fascinating stuff.

Also, it takes only 15 seconds for a star to move in such a way as to become a streak in the eye of a camera, Todd said.

Here, the glow of Manzanita lights up a fog that's trying to cover the town. Meanwhile, above, the stars are raging in their march across the sky. A ten-minute exposure here yields a startling scene that adeptly illustrates the movement of the night sky above us. You can see the stars' path clearly as they churn over our heads – or in this case, wandering over Manzanita in particular.

The other fascinating feature of this overlook at night is the amount of shooting stars that can be seen. In a half hour period, at least four were spotted. One in particular flamed out in a long streak, scorching out of existence in what appeared to be just over one of the fishing boats. Of course that was just a trick of point of view, and it likely burned up miles and miles away.

This is one of the coolest unknown facts about the north Oregon coast, one that not even many locals know: the Neahkahnie overlooks are a prime spot for catching a shooting star.

Be ready to make a wish – several wishes, in fact.

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