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The Big Dipper vs. Oregon Coast Waves: Nocturnal Beauty Contest

Published 08/03/2016 at 6:51 PM PDT - Updated 08/04/2016 at 1:29 PM PDT
By Andre' G.W. Hagestedt

Big Dipper in Newport, Oregon Coast

(Manzanita, Oregon) – There are moments when, believe it or not, the best times to enjoy the Oregon coast are well after dark. This is often my favorite time to go out and explore – at least photographically – as true exploration at night would be too dangerous. (Above: the Big Dipper above Newport).

Yet often just trekking out onto one of these strands in the dead of night is exploration in itself. You get to see another side of a place you know well, and once your eyes get used to it, some startling new shades.

Other times, it's just plain fun to play amateur astronomer and chase stars, meteor showers and the Aurora Borealis at night along the coastline.

As I did during one summer, several years ago. One set of nocturnal sessions, I'd focused my attention on chasing the Big Dipper.


It's all happened one particular summer that didn't yield much in the way of sunlight. It was exceptionally cloudy those three months. But a few evenings cleared up well. At Manzanita, the night sky reflects this, with clear conditions allowing unobstructed views of a monster Big Dipper hovering over Neahkahnie Mountain. A handful of streetlights and some homes with residents still up at this hour provide a reminder of civilization below.

There’s that irresistible mist that hovers close to Neahkahnie as well, there more often than not.

Then, fast forward a few months to the weekend of Halloween in Newport, about 100 miles away from Manzanita. There, the Big Dipper makes and appearance again, hovering over Yaquina Head and Agate Beach. This time, it’s at a slightly different angle, and a bit lower.

This shot was taken atop a bluff at Nye Beach, so the waters surrounding Agate Beach and the bright dot of the lighthouse are clearly visible as well, along with some nifty colors that are created by various manmade light sources.

Amusingly, the Big Dipper really kind of looks like a giant shopping cart to modern eyes.

It seems the Big Dipper is visible year round, according to astronomers. It’s high in the evening sky in the summer, but in the in fall it’s more towards the northwest.

In winter, the gets rather low in the northern horizon, so some of the geography around you may block it – especially on the Oregon coast, as there’s almost always something to the north of you. It will undoubtedly be easier to spot from vantage points like Cape Foulweather and maybe the lookouts just south of Cannon Beach.


In springtime, it shows up more towards the northeast, which could present a problem for those on the coast trying to check it out, as the coast range mountains may get it in the way.

Whatever the case, it never fails to impress when the nights along the Oregon coast get so crystal clear. There's even more below of astounding sights along these shores at night. Oregon Coast Hotels in these areas - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours



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