There are beautiful moments in the world of aviation. Last weekend I had one. Standing in the semi-dark at Lanseria Airport, I was struck by the fact that a Boeing was in the circuit. It’s always exciting watching or sharing airspace with a Boeing pilot undergoing circuit training. The pure power as the plane does a touch and go. The sound on the ground of a large jet circling the airfield.
On 21st May it was even more beautiful. While the Boeing pilot/s trained, a Blue Moon waxed overhead. Alongside the Moon, Mars glowered in an orange mistiness. It was partly cloudy so I wasn’t sure that the astronomical event would feature during my flight.
A blue moon is when 4 full moons appear in a season instead of 3. Usually a blue moon means the Moon is actually the second full moon in a month. But in a strange twist, Blue moon of 21st May actually means its a full moon that’s appeared for the fourth time in a season. Thus, its an unusual event. Like a Blue Moon. At least astronomers aren’t confused.
Mars in opposition means the earth passes directly between Mars and the Sun and Mars then gleams so brightly in the night that it looks like a bursting star. Its way the brightest thing in the night sky so keep looking up folks, that’s going to last for a few weeks yet.
But as luck would have it, the Moon and Mars sauntered into view as I took off. Later, turning in the general flying area – suddenly – I was alone in the great big sky of Johannesburg. It was like a switch had been flicked. Bright moonlight shone on the northern Magagliesberg Ridge which looms up to a high point of 6000 feet, ready to trip up an unsuspecting night pilot. A single plane was descending into Rand Airport 50km away. A chopper swirled around FNB towers near Soweto. In the north, around Rustenberg and Pilansberg, nothing moved.
Here something special – A night flight during a blue moon & mars in opposition
It’s hard to put into words the exact feeling as you fly in such clear skies on a windless night, with a Blue Moon and Mars in opposition for company. For a fleeting moment I felt a little like what space travellers may feel. Solitude, an alien loneliness, an ache to fly.