Halos of Orion
Half-awake at 3AM I wandered the banks of the Tongue River in southern Montana. Fog drifted across the water like it was alive, slowing down, speeding up, and stopping. Every tree and bush shifted to an unfamiliar shape. Each breath I took added to the moisture in the air. All evening long the 75% moon hid the secrets of the night sky. Faint colors and dim stars were all drowned out by the bright, inescapable light source. But when the moon set and the fog appeared, it was a different world. The aurora glowed gently to the north while stars I haven’t seen in half a year rose to the east. Though Orion is considered a winter constellation, it first rises in the fall. The early morning hours essentially show a preview of the stars for the following season. Water vapor produced halos around the brighter stars Betelgeuse and Rigel, Castor and Pollux, enhancing their colors. At one point I walked too far into a wall of fog and could see nothing at all. When I woke up in my tent hours later, aside from the heavy dew everywhere, it was like the fog was never even there.