It was an enchanted evening when we stopped by Leos’s home for some stargazing. Our ‘stargazing with Leo group’ consisted of; Kathy-Lynn Ward (co-founder of Barbados.org), Kristine Dear (Barbados.org Graphic Artist), and me, Ian R Clayton (CEO/founder of Barbados.org). We were invited to see the stars with Leo on this occasion, to explore and learn about the universe and the cosmic consciousness man featured in the media and Rogues in Paradise.
Leo is the cosmic pioneer; he brought the universe to the masses with his portable ten-inch telescope. He took it to private homes, hotels, conferences, and events around Barbados. He experimented with venues, angles, and the storyline to make astronomy accessible, engaging, personal, and fun. His beach gatherings were wildly popular and a one-of-a-kind Caribbean experience. I wrote about his beach stargazing in Travelwatchnews, and included the story of Leo in my book Rogues in Paradise.
Meeting Heaven on a Barbados Beach
On an island famous for its beaches, sea, sand, and sunbathing, reaching up to heaven from the beach made sense. Beaches are quiet and deserted at night, but the stars come alive as the sun sets, and the sky is ablaze with specks of fire set in their famous constellations. It is magical to gaze into the cosmos and let your mind fly amongst the stars: Your toes dug into the sand of a quiet shore with a timeless ocean lapping on an endless beach under a sky of blissful cosmic consciousness.
Lugging a ten-inch telescope any distance is not fun. Leo now finds it impractical to carry the telescope any distance. He chooses to have small gatherings in his front yard with a clear dark sky and easy access. After all, the equipment weighs a ton. It’s a job that requires extreme care, balance, strength, and skill. The telescope is extremely sensitive, and unknowing hands can easily upset the apple cart. He has got it to an art, but it still requires careful maneuvering to keep the body aligned and the telescope safe.
A Magical Evening Stargazing With Leo
Our evening in the yard was magical. We got there at about 6 pm. Leo was perfectly charming, recounting stories, meetings, people, and lives past and present. He is a deep person with a knowledge of the cosmos that is extensive and spiritual. While looking at the stars, we chatted about astral projections, the meaning of infinite and eternity. We were examing galaxies a million light miles away. We see the past, now in the present, which calls into question; what is time? Can we see the future if we can see a million light-years in the past? Is it not a continuum that extends into infinity?
Kathy and Kristine had profound points of view on time, eternity and infinity. They commented intelligently on what seemed unfathomable. Black holes were just dense matter that would pull everything in and compound it. I asked what that would feel like. Would it be hot or cold? Don’t worry, said Leo, “you would be vaporized before it swallowed you.” That did not feel very reassuring.
Single stars and constellations were in sharp focus with the telescope. One can see 90% of the visible cosmos from Barbados. Almost everything that anyone can see, from the north to the south pole, is visible in Barbados at some point in time. And much of what we can see here will not appear everywhere. Being just above the equator at thirteen degrees latitude gives us a bird’s eye view of the cosmos.
Kristine recounted seeing a spectacular flame of light shoot right across the night sky. She wondered what it was.
Smashing the Myth of a Falling Star
‘”What do you think that is, Ian,” he asked me. “A falling star,” I replied, remembering Perry Comos’ song: ‘Catch a falling star and put in your pocket, save it for a rainy day’. It was good enough for Perry Como and his million fans, but not for Leo. “No, no, no,” he exclaimed, “Stars are massive balls of hot, luminous plasma held together by gravity. Kristine had seen a meteor, particles of solid matter, like space rocks, flying through the solar system. They heat up and burn as they enter the atmosphere. All we see are the flames that illuminate the sky. If they hit the earth or another planet, they are called meteorites.”
Meteorites are valuable and are studied by scientists who look for minerals, RNA, and DNA that help to explain life. Rare minerals like Kamacite and Taenite, which are not found on earth, are found in meteorites. Meteorites from outer space deposited the majority of precious minerals found on earth. Nearly all of the earth’s original precious metals were buried deep in its core from the beginning.
Kristine inquired about Meteor showers. Leo again revealed himself as a true encyclopedia of cosmic knowledge, describing the Perseids, Leonids, and Geminids that will appear later in the year. The famous Leonids shower is close to his heart as their light trails originate from the constellation of Leo.
The Seven Sisters Constellation
We looked at “The Seven Sisters” cluster just to the east as he explained the name’s origins in Greek mythology. They are the seven daughters of the titan Atlas – Sterope, Merope, Electra, Maia, Taygeta, Celaeno, and Alcyone. A closer look reveals many more stars in the cluster, but the brightest are the Sister, and the catchy name lives on.
Kathy recalled seeing the Sisters on a visit to Nova Scotia several years ago. It reminded us that we all share the same skies as we share the same planet. Even though Barbados is ideally positioned to see most of the stars.
Barbados does not experience the spring-summer-autumn-winter seasonality that marks the passage of time and the cycle of nature in other countries. But the cosmos does bless us with stellar reminders: It is lovely to look up in December and see the hunter Orion once more, like an old friend returning from a journey. Or anticipate the arrival of the distinctive Scorpius constellation mid-year.
On this night, Orion joined us, and we gazed upon his brightest stars: Blue/white Rigel and red Betelgeuse. Leo described how the colours of the stars are related to their surface temperature, with cooler stars appearing red and hotter stars illuminating blue.
And we couldn’t miss Orion’s faithful dogs – Canis Major with its brilliant Sirius star and Canis Minor featuring another bright star Procyon.
Leo explained the concept of binary stars, which appear as a single object to our naked eye but are revealed via telescope as separate stars. We also learned that our present “North Star” – Polaris – has not always held that distinction. Due to a wobble in the earth’s axis, the North Celestial Pole shifts, resulting in different stars becoming the North Star throughout history!
Listening to Leo describing the appearance of planet Earth from space reminded Kathy of Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot”. We pondered the likely existence of life – in some forms – beyond our own world.
Leo does not lecture. He does not like the term and what it implies. He is at ease chatting about what he knows and engages us in lively conversation as we explore the universe.
Our trio left Leo that evening with a deeper connection to the cosmos, a curiosity to explore further, and a wish to return for another tour of the night skies.
Contact Leo, the Cosmic Pioneer
Call to get your invitation to Stargazing with Leo or arrange a private event.
Leo Branch Astronomer – leobranchbarbados (at) gmail.com
Telephone: landline (246) 420 6384 ,
Mobile or WhatsApp (246) 230 0572
More to Come
Background – when did his interest start, who were his idols, family life, family tree, education, growing up etc., other interests, skills, and cosmic energies.
Contact – by invitation – how to get an invitation. What to expect, what to take with you.
Summary Video Stargazing with Leo
Leo is featured in the book – Rogues in Paradise.
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