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Above the Beaches: Interstellar Moments of Oregon Coast

Published 09/12/21 at 6:26 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Above the Beaches: Interstellar Moments of Oregon Coast

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(Oregon Coast) – We are not alone in this universe. We're not necessarily talking about aliens here: just look up at night and see the endless number of other suns, many of which have other worlds circling about them. We're not the only planet in that massive tangle of bright lights, and by far and away not the only rocky home with a sun.

In between us and the great, black expanse of space are some engaging sights, especially if seen from the walloping beauty of these beaches. On the Oregon coast, nighttime can yield some truly jolting moments from above, in the form of interstellar phenomena to that which is meteorological.

Oregon Coast Beach Connection managed to capture more than a few over the years.

On a winter's eve in Depoe Bay several years back, the moon took on this striking glow. It's a moon halo, caused by ice crystals high in the atmosphere, then refracting out in all directions in a literal rainbow of colors. It's harder to see here on camera because the brightness of the halo blows out the details, but there were a variety of colors surrounding the glowing edges and mixed in.

These things tend to take up enormous chunks of the sky, so vast you have to move your eyes around considerably. It's pictured here above the Whale Watching Center and the adjenct viewpoint, the headquarters for whale watching on the Oregon coast.

Such phenomena can be a weather predictor, indicating colder weather on its way. On this particular day it had been rather warm and sunny on the central coast, but the following day proved much chillier and damper.

Back in 2010, quite the stunning lunar eclipse happened in Oregon. This night was not very cooperative on the coast, however, with lots of clouds blocking the way. Luckily, there were breaks in the cover. Oregon Coast Beach Connection cameras started out in Cannon Beach, where things were actually a little stormy. However, moving southward to a little less cloud cover in Manzanita, the result was this fuzzy but interesting moment.

More interstellar fun happened in Manzaninta a few years later, this time a bit of a shocker. Testing the camera exposures for other nighttime subject matter yielded this awe-inspiring streak. Speaking to OMSI's Jim Todd, it turned out likely not what was hoped: not a meteor. Instead, Todd said this was an iridium flare rather than a meteor, which – back then – was actually rarer. This is when an orbiting satellite briefly glints in sunlight as it passes over.

Now, that sight has gone with all iridium satellites replaced by orbiting objects of other materials.

In yet another night in Manzanita: the stars were thick, omnipresent and even overwhelming. Take a look just above Neahkahnie: the faint colorations are hints of the Northern Lights. Glorious.

Way back on July 1 of 2015, sky watchers got to witness a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, the closest they would be to each other for another year. On the Oregon coast, it was particularly fascinating.

In Seaside, they were a little ways above the horizon, poking through occasional cloud cover, and in one case, seen just above the volleyball nets on the beach. Two searing, bright dots in the darkening colors of dusk.

Down around Manzanita, from the Neahkahnie Viewpoints, they were seen dipping down into the horizon.

Venus was at a magnitude of -4 and Jupiter with a magnitude of -2, falling in line with Venus' usual M.O. of being the brightest object in the sky.

At the time, Todd told Oregon Coast Beach Connection Venus is so bright because it has thick clouds of carbon dioxide that reflect nearly 70% of the sunlight that reaches it back into space.

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