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Desert Diary


Since first entering the Chihuahuan Desert, people have noted the brilliance of its night skies, starshine unimpeded by a moisture-laden atmosphere. Individual stars were noted, the more prominent by name, and constellations, with a healthy dose of imagination, named after the local mythological figures. But what to make of the haze of light bisecting the vault of the heavens? Some might speculate the highway of the gods. Or maybe the best solution was in merely giving a descriptive label, such as the English language's Milky Way. Only with the invention of telescopes did it become apparent that an immense massing of stars accounted for the phenomenon, and not until well into the last century was it fully realized that we were gazing center-ward from the edge of a galaxy, only one of millions of such agglomerations.

Sad to say, millions of people can no longer see our galaxy's disk, its misty light drowned in the nighttime glow of city lights that affect even the giant telescopes, lured to the Southwest by clear skies.
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

NASA image of galaxy

The Milky Way Galaxy, infrared image. Image courtesy of NASA.



Web Resources

Milky Way. Images.