Acrylic on poster board ; Illustration by Adra Fisher

Last week’s Beaver Moon lunar eclipse cap­ti­vat­ed sky­watch­ers all over Clark County — and much of the world — with good rea­son. It’s been 850 years since we’ve had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to watch such a lengthy (6‑hour) par­tial lunar eclipse, so set­ting a 4 a.m. alarm to wit­ness its peak seemed rea­son­able to me. Truth be told, I could prob­a­bly man­age to get up that ear­ly as often as every 500 years or so — if I had to.

The mag­ic moment, 4:02 a.m., came and went before I could make it out­side, due main­ly to bath­room issues and wardrobe con­cerns. But I did reach my front-stoop view­ing sta­tion by 4:07 a.m, and in high style, too, thanks to a last-sec­ond deci­sion to acces­sorize my mul­ti-lay­ered ensem­ble (fleece bathrobe + fuzzy socks and slip­pers + down coat + tobog­gan) with a punchy blan­ket “shawl” and mat­te black binoculars.

To my sur­prise and cha­grin, none of my styl­ish neigh­bors seemed to be out, but it was fair­ly dark, being the dead of night and all. Had they not heard of this celes­tial event? Did they not care? Perhaps I’d just missed them. They had prob­a­bly already returned to their nice warm beds, suf­fi­cient­ly awestruck and frostbite-free.

But I was just get­ting started.

A life­long stargaz­er, I’ve seen sev­er­al eclipses over the years, so you can believe me when I tell you they all seem to take place in the same gen­er­al area: the sky. And because of my con­sid­er­able astro­nom­ic acu­ity, I also knew instinc­tive­ly in which direc­tion to look: up.

Once sit­u­at­ed on my cold con­crete step, my know-how paid off imme­di­ate­ly. The near­ly full moon bloomed above me in a warm rosy hue, impres­sive­ly embossed upon the cloud­less black sky. It was sur­re­al and beau­ti­ful, espe­cial­ly when viewed through my binoc­u­lars. I savored the sight, scan­ning the lunar sur­face for the famil­iar maria (dark regions) and high­lands, feel­ing a spe­cial kin­ship with gen­er­a­tions of moon gaz­ers past and present.

But I must con­fess, after a few enthralled moments, my eyes began to wan­der. Determined to stay on task, I refo­cused on the moon, which remained rud­dy and rotund. But some­thing small­er and shinier kept catch­ing my eye, pulling it away from that big blush­ing orb. What WAS that glit­ter­ing lit­tle-dip­per-like affair above and to the right of the moon?

To find out, I had only to step inside and con­sult with my warm and awake hus­band, who spends more time study­ing his lap­top sky map than the actu­al sky. With a sin­gle track­pad swipe, he pro­vid­ed an answer: the Pleiades!

The ear­li­est of win­ter con­stel­la­tions in our part of the world, the Pleiades are known by many names: Seven Sisters, Hens and Chicks, Little Eyes of Heaven, and the incred­i­bly lyri­cal M45. Binoculars are not required to appre­ci­ate this bril­liant clus­ter of over 1,000 stars, which Alfred Tennyson wrote in his 1835 poem Locksley Hall, “glit­ter like a swarm of fire­flies tan­gled in a sil­ver braid.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Captivating and ancient, the Pleiades’ most high­ly vis­i­ble hand­ful of stars reach peak lumi­nos­i­ty in our area around January, but they were hard to miss even last week— a reminder, once again, that we only have to look to see some­thing wondrous.

Turning off our screens and step­ping out­side into the chilly night may be just the wake-up call we need now. One of the many advan­tages of liv­ing in Clark County is that we have less light pol­lu­tion than more pop­u­lous regions, so enjoy­ing the night sky is some­thing we all can do. And keep­ing an open heart and mind when we turn our eyes sky­ward only com­pounds the joy.

When I ven­tured out to watch the Beaver Moon eclipse, I had no inten­tion of doing any­thing else. It was cold out, and the hour was insane­ly late. In a way, I just want­ed to get it over with — to see the eclipse at its peak, and then go back to bed.

But some­thing unex­pect­ed hap­pened. I devi­at­ed from the plan; I allowed my eyes to wan­der. Not only did I see our amaz­ing moon in a rare and exquis­ite state, but I saw it in a con­text that was com­plete­ly new to me. I stayed out­side much longer than I intend­ed; and yes, I was beyond cold by the time I went back to bed. But our abid­ing night sky reward­ed me so rich­ly that I have no regrets — only grat­i­tude and awe, plus a new favorite night-sky jewel!

So sure, I plead guilty … I went rogue. And I’m so glad I did.

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    Adra Fisher grew up in Winchester, moved away in her ear­ly 20s and returned a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry lat­er. She enjoys all types of art and encour­ag­ing oth­ers to live creatively.