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This has been a very frustrating summer. The Cumbrian weather - our enemy at the best of times, has done its very best to thwart our efforts to see anything interesting going on ‘up there’. In fact, it seems to have made it its mission in life to leave astronomers and stargazers sinking to their knees, like Charlton Heston at the end of the first Planet of The Apes, howling at the sky in despair...


For a start, it ruined the noctilucent cloud season yet again. There weren’t that many major displays anyway but there were more than last year... and we missed just about all of them because of cloud. Elsewhere in the country - and by ‘elsewhere’


I mean ‘just about


everywhere else’ - sky watchers had better luck and were treated to perhaps half a dozen displays of these beautiful swirls and curls of electric blue clouds which spanned the whole of the Northern sky. Up here? All we could do was gaze up at a quilt of filthy cloud, night after night after night.


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We missed the Northern Lights too! Several


times. Not huge displays,


admittedly; not displays that were so colourful and bright they would have had Joanna Lumley crying with joy but certainly subtle beams and arcs of pink and green respectively. Again, they were seen in other places - over on the east coast and even as far south as Norfolk. But Cumbria? Nope!


Of course, any stargazers and skywatchers living in Cumbria know what


LETTER FROM THE SOUTH...


they’re up against. We’re not stupid. We know that we live in the wettest part of the wettest country in Europe and we know that we have all these lakes and lush green forests because it rains so much. Oh, hang on, maybe we are stupid for even trying...


However, occasionally, just occasionally, the force field protecting Cumbria from dangerous starlight fails and we see things. Beautiful things. Amazing things. I’ve stood in the shadow of Cockermouth Castle and seen the whole sky ablaze with crimson auroral curtains and beams. In 1998, I saw fireballs falling from the sky like artillery flares during a WWI battle. I’ve stood beneath a perfectly clear early autumn sky and stood beneath a Milky Way so bright it looked like it had been airbrushed across the sky...


So we persist. We make our plans, we look forward to the next aurora, the next NLC display, the next comet... and in October we might, MIGHT have a comet in the sky that’s bright enough to see, with just a pair of binoculars. It might even briefly become visible to the naked eye, we’ll have to wait and see. More info on that nearer the time.


Just keep looking up. We’ll see the stars again, eventually...!


Stuart Atkinson in Duror, Scotland. Eddington Astronomical Society of Kendal http://cumbriansky.wordpress.com


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I was given some money for my birthday, so I decided to spend it on a new picture for my study. It was easiest to do it online: it took me ages! First, I had to remember the name of the contemporary artist I was interested in (Lisa Graa Jensen, if you’d like to know!), having seen some of her work; then choose a painting, then consider the size and the type of frame for the wall where it will hang. I hope I have made the right decisions. I’ll know when it arrives.


Recently, I was talking at church about a particular kind of art – icons – and about one in particular. It’s called ‘The Hospitality of Abraham’ by Andrei Rublev, a 15th century Russian artist. You can view it online. It’s become famous in recent years for its depiction of the Holy


Trinity (God as Three Persons), which is how the Christian Church has tried to imagine God for many centuries. Rublev and other iconographers, manage to describe something through their art which words cannot do. The idea is not just to look at their work but to look through it to a greater reality.


Art lovers can recognise the hand of an artist by looking at their work. Just as many believe you can recognise the hand of God in the beauty of creation. As summer turns to autumn and nature puts on a wonderful display of colour for us to enjoy, we give thanks to our Creator God.


Godfrey Butland, Rector of the Cockermouth Area Team


17 AUGUST 2017 ISSUE 417 PAGE 10


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