Weather in the Foothills

“The spiral in a snail’s shell is the same mathematically as the spiral in the Milky Way galaxy, and it’s also the same mathematically as the spirals in our DNA. It’s the same ratio that you’ll find in very basic music that transcends cultures all over the world.”~ Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Away from bright city lights, the California sky twinkles with stars, clusters of constellations, the Milky Way and other spectacular astronomical sights. The deserts and mountains are prime viewing locations. On the other hand, along the coastline and into the valleys, fog often obscures the night sky. Cloud cover from winter storms and summer thunderstorms can have the same effect. Mother Nature isn’t always the culprit for the inability to see the Milky Way. We humans are most likely at fault.

Air pollution consists of chemicals or particles in the air that can harm the health of humans, animals and plants. Another source of pollution – not always considered – is light. Light pollution is the obtrusive use of artificial lighting, misdirected or inappropriate outdoor lighting. Too much artificial light washes out the view of the universe, interferes with astronomical research and disrupts ecosystems. Like air pollution it adversely affects the health and safety of humans and wildlife. An interesting fact: light pollution can have as great an impact on the planet as increased levels of carbon monoxide and other airborne pollutants.

The origin of my weather/Milky Way subject comes from our recent visit to the eastern Sierra. I’ve always considered this area as “God’s country” and autumn only intensifies my sentiment. Though the summer crowds had passed an anticipation hung in the air; it wasn’t one of excitement, but of calm. The remaining leaves falling from the aspen trees had mostly turned from gold to brown. By the time skiers hit the slopes the trees will be bare. Now the wait is on for the first snowflakes to fall. For us, a clear view of the Milky Way atop a peak in Mammoth more than sufficed.

After tomorrow’s temperature of near 90 degrees, a cool-down is predicted into next week. The long-range forecast is for more of the same: warm/dry conditions are expected at least into the middle of November.

Don’t forget, help keep the Earth healthy: Turn off the light!

Sue Kilpatrick is a Crescenta Valley resident and Official Skywarn Spotter for the National Weather Service. Reach her at