crux constellation

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Dark Emu and Scorpius Rising by Alan Dyer
Via Flickr:
The Dark Emu of aboriginal sky lore rising in the east at the OzSky 2016 star party at Coonabarabran, NSW, Australia, on April 2, 2016. The sweep of the Milky Way from Carina at upper right to Sagittarius at lower left just rising takes in much of the splendours of the southern sky. The Dark Emu itself is made of dark lanes in the Milky Way, with the dark Coal Sack at upper centre forming his head and beak. The dark lane through Centaurus forms his neck. At left is Scorpius rising, with Mars and Saturn to the left of Antares. The Small Magellanic Cloud is at lower right setting. The Zodiacal Band and Gegenschein add the brighter sky at upper left. This is a stack of 5 x 3-minute exposures, all tracked on the iOptron Sky Tracker, and with the 14mm Rokinon lens at f/2.8 and filter modified Canon 5D MkII at ISO 2000. The ground comes from one 8-minute exposure at ISO 800 with the tracker motor off taken right after the tracked shots. This provides the sharp foreground, with a photographer with the OzSky star party at lower right. The composite does leave some ghosly trailed trees at left and along the horizon. But I think this looks rather neat.

Fanfiction - Crux (Constellations series)

So I’m adding a new star to my Constellations series. I’m just so happy and grateful for the amazing response to the previous one – Sirius - a story very dear to my heart. This one takes place during the Great War (WWI) and has a guest appearance of Pride and Prejudice. See you on the other side my loves!

Fanfiction

Crux

The wind was howling outside, cautioning everyone to stay indoors that night, making the glass windows tremble on their frames.

Her ankles were swollen after another day spent on her patient’s bedsides; the small of her back ached; her eyelids were heavy and tender, wishfully remembering her of the need to rest. But she wasn’t ready yet – she still had to go and see him before she could surrender herself to the arms of Morpheus.

Silent as a ghost Claire crossed the hall where beds had been gathered to improvise an infirmary, finding a moment to look up and admire, not for the first time, the intricate paintings on the ceiling. The house had been a great manor, the ancient home of an important and wealthy family, with more names than she had years of life. But when the Great War came, the waves of sorrow and disgrace washing the shores of England’s countryside, the widowed and childless Lady had given her estate to serve as a Convalescent Hospital.

And so it happened that Corporal Andrews had gotten the boil in his buttock lanceted, while laying on a bed under the crest of one of Britain’s finest families; and General Byron drank his daily dose of cod’s oil on a porcelain cup.

Corporal Dawson was moving restless in his sleep, trashing about, and Claire hurried to soothe him before he injured himself even further –  his right leg had been amputated in a field hospital on the Somme before being sent home to convalesce, but his stump had stubbornly refused to heal entirely.

Covering a soldier with a blanket here and greeting a fellow sleepy nurse there, she finally arrived to the small study where his bed had been placed to further privacy and peacefulness.

“Hello, Captain Fraser.” She acknowledged him, sitting on the chair by his bed as she had done so many times in the past three months. “I have been thinking of what to say to you tonight. I’m fairly sure I’ll be out of stories to tell you soon. So maybe we’ll give this one another go, shall we?”

“She was convinced that she could have been happy with him, when it was no longer likely they should meet.”  The clock on the hall struck eleven times, announcing the late hour, as Claire closed her favourite Jane Austen book, an heirloom of her mother.

She looked at him, his eyes firmly closed. Closed, as they had been for the past three months.

It had been a sunny day, as she recalled it – the rest of the details were lost in a haze of fatigue and endless duties. An ordinary day, in the strange world they had built during the World War. Except Captain James Fraser had been brought in that day – and he had nothing ordinary about him.

He was brave, she was sure. Had to be, as he had been caught in an explosion while trying to save one man in his company that no one seemed to like very much. The wounds in his body, while quite substantial, had healed with the passing days in the field hospital. But his mind had not.

James Fraser had been in a coma since the day of the explosion, his mind escaped from his body, wandering somewhere unachievable. Nothing the doctors had tried had succeeded in bringing him back. Hope lost, they had sent him to waste away in Britain’s soil. To her.

There was just something about him that discomposed her. He was beautiful of course – his nose just long enough, his cheekbones sharp and royal, long lashes covering his closed eyes, the unique hair that contrasted deeply with the whiteness of the bedclothes – but that was just part of it. She longed to hear him talk, to know if his voice was as deep as she imagined. His lips, fleshy and well-drawn, were meant to be used in a punishing smile. And his eyes – what colour was hidden there?

She knew very little about him, only the small details that had accompanied his arrival. A Scottish war hero. Best known as Jamie. No family known. An officer well loved and respected by his men, a true leader. A man without a past and likely no future.

It seemed utterly unfair that a man so young and fearless, with a heart that kept beating with the might of thunder, was destined to lay in a bed for the rest of his days. Alone somewhere in the dark of his own mind, with no one to keep him company. He was here, but she wouldn’t get to know him.

Was he in pain? Was he asleep, immersed in memories of better days? Could he hear her and know that someone cared for him?

And so it became a ritual. At first it was just part of her tasks – come to him; access his vitals; wash his beautifully made body, getting thinner and weaker everyday he was unable to move; feed him liquids through the feeding tube in his nose, a fascinating even if somewhat crude fabrication of one of the army surgeons – but soon enough Claire would find herself sitting beside him, gazing at him with longing. Talking to him. Reading to him from her scarce collection of books.

She was unable to sleep without coming to say goodnight to him. She would tell him stories of the other patients in her ward, people whose lives she had touched briefly in those days, their victories and defeats which felt like her own. Claire would share with him the things that were precious to her, the people of her past she had cherished. And above all else, she would wish for him to wake up and answer her, challenging him to claim back the life that was his.

Each night she held his hand at the end and would whisper in his ear “I’ll see you tomorrow, Jamie.”

****

Claire couldn’t remember the last time she had had a day off, so she thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to go to the village nearby and acquire some sewing thread, to mend her battered clothes, and maybe even a new book that she could share with Jamie.

As she crossed the door of her quarters, still fumbling after changing to her uniform, she watched as Nurse Neal ran down the hall, arms waving like a mad octopus.

“Nurse Beauchamp! Claire!” She suddenly halted, almost bumping against a dazed Claire.

“What is it Nurse Neal? Is something on fire?” She smiled, eyebrow raised in question.

“He is asking for you!” The blonde woman blurted. “You have to come!”

“Who is?” Claire asked, confused. “Is it General Myers again? I told him yesterday that he can cut his own toe nails. I’m a nurse, not his damned wife!”

“Captain Fraser.” The woman told her, brushing her arm with her hand. “He is awake and asking for you.”

“Jamie…?” Claire whispered, her body suddenly struck by a heat wave, her throat tight with undesired tears. “Are you sure?” Nurse Neal nodded, a big smile on her lips. Claire started in the direction of the study.

She stopped at the door, furiously trying to gather her rampant emotions, breathing deeply and slowly to calm herself. Claire gave a quick look to the mirror on the corner and saw her reflection in her blue uniform, cheeks blushed and eyes glowing.

Slowly she pushed the door open.

Blue. His eyes were the most remarkable blue she had ever seen.

He was sitting in bed, looking outside through the big window, the most curious expression on his features. Sorrow? Longing? Cautious happiness? She couldn’t say.

When he felt her enter, he turned his head and looked straight at her.

“Captain Fraser, I’m…” She began.

“Nurse Beauchamp.” He gave her an intense look. “I know who ye are. I could recognize yer voice in a room full of people and an orchestra playing.”

“You could?” Claire asked, amazed.

“Oh, aye.” He smiled, a gesture that suited him. “When the only thing ye hear for such a long time is this voice, ye get to know it verra well.”

Claire bushed. She squeezed a fold of her apron between her fingers to regain some composure.

“I must make sure everything is alright with you, Captain. You sustained very serious injuries and your state has been…delicate.”

“Of course.” And so Jamie suffered through her invasive questions, assessments and general prodding with an amused smile on his lips.

“Well, everything seems quite alright. But you are very weak, Captain. Now that you’ll be able to eat properly, you should regain your strength soon enough.”

“I thank ye, Nurse Beauchamp.” He bowed his head, gravely.

“I only did…”

“Not only for this.” Jamie interrupted, his hand touching hers. “But for everything.”

His voice was husky and Claire stopped, their eyes locked.

“Nurse…Claire….ye kept me here. When I was…asleep….Ye were the only thing that existed for me. I have heard people talk about this place they saw close to death. The white light, the path formed in front of them.” He gripped the sheets in his hand. “But for me there was nothing. I saw nothing. Only darkness.”

“Jamie…Captain Fraser…” She tried to stop him, but he went on.

“But there was this sound sometimes.” He proceeded. “A low noise, like someone humming a song. Like the voices of people I ken and love…calling and talking to me. And I felt that I might forget what living was like, find peace and comfort in that sound. I wanted sae badly to let go of everything, this useless body, and just flow with it.”

“Why didn’t you?” She asked softly.

“Because of ye.” He moved his shoulders in discomfort, like his clothes were too tight. “Ye would come and talk to me. I remember everything ye ever said to me, Claire. Every story, every book, every person ye loved and lost. I dinna wish to pain ye any further by dying, as ye seemed to care sae much.” He avoided her gaze. “And when the will to be gone was so strong that my heart felt ripped apart, I thought about how much I wanted to see ye. Ye gave me something worth living for.”

“Captain Fraser, those are bold words.” She tried to persuade him. “I’m sure you are a gentleman and very grateful but you don’t know me, not really. You shouldn’t talk like this to a complete stranger.”

“Claire,” He said impatiently. “Are ye trying to convince me or yerself? I ken what I feel well enough.” Jamie touched her face with the tip of his fingers, so cold and long, making her shiver.

“How can you…admire me…so much?” She asked astonished.

For the liveliness of your mind, I did.” He smiled, a mixture of mischief and tenderness. “I knew ye before I ever saw ye, mo nighean donn. And now that I do…It dinna change at all. Only grew, for everything about ye is beautiful. Aye?”

“Jamie.” She whispered. “I’m so glad of you. I am. But we mustn’t. You are my patient and an officer. I’m a nurse. This is highly unsuitable.”

“Aye.” He sighed, defeated, his hand dropping on the bed.

“But maybe…” She licked her lips and smiled, joyous and tentative. “When everything ends and I’m no longer Nurse Beauchamp and you’re no longer Captain Fraser. When we go back to being just Jamie and Claire….maybe then, you’d consider taking me to dinner?”

“Aye. I can wait.” Their eyes met again and Claire marvelled everytime she saw them open. Seeing her. Reflecting her. “For ye, I’d wait my entire life.”

The view from on high

As seen on the National Geographic News the Milky Way galaxy lights up the night above two ALMA radio telescopes in Chile’s Atacama Desert. The altitude—5,000 meters (16,400 feet) above sea level—allows for exceptional visibility. The Southern Cross constellation (Crux) is visible to the left of the radio telescope in the foreground; Saturn is the brightest orb of light halfway down the image to the right. 

Image credit & copyright: Babak A. Tafreshi

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The jewelbox star cluster by Daniele Malleo
Via Flickr:
The Jewel Box, Kappa Crucis Cluster, NGC 4755, is an open cluster in the constellation Crux. Scope: TEC 500 RC (20" f/9 Ritchey-Chretien, FL: 4500mm) Camera: FLI PL16803 Mount: AP1600GTO/AE Exposures: R,G,B: 9 x 30s each Data acquired from Hacienda Los Andes, Rio Hurtado, Chile in April 2016

Kilimanjaro at night

At the break of dawn the southern Milky Way is photographed over Mount Kilimanjaro, as seen from Amboseli National Park, Kenya. The Great Carina Nebula is the red cloud at top. Constellation Crux or the Southern Cross appear on the left. On the Earth is the second peak of Mount Kilimanjaro reaching 5149 m high, known as Mawenzi (meaning the moon in Swahili).

Image credit and copyright: Babak A. Tafreshi