“Keely’s Star”

Keely & I wanted to have a star to call our own so I have been scanning the skies to decide on a constellation that would be visible to both of us for much of the year. And after much teeth grinding and paw wringing, I settled on ‘The Hunter’, Orion.

Orion is located on the celestial equator and is one of the most conspicuous and recognisable constellations in the night sky. This prominent constellation will be visible to us both at some time during the night for most of the year, the exception being May – July when it will appear in the daylight sky.

Orion

Having chosen the constellation, I then narrowed my search for the right star. The choice wasn’t too difficult – the occasion being Valentine’s Day, I could not go past the 8th brightest star in the night sky, Betelguese.

Betelguese (Alpha Orionis) – representing Orion’s right shoulder – is a bright red supergiant star also known as the Valentine’s Day Star.

Betelguese

I then contacted the International Star Registry and arranged for the star to be renamed “Keely’s Star”. And on Valentine’s Day,  I presented my love with a Star Certificate recording the name change. Her very own star !

Star Certificate

Keely’s Star is about 10,000 times brighter than our sun and about 650 times the diameter. In fact, if we were to replace our sun with Keely’s Star, it would engulf our planets out to the orbit of Mars! Impressive enough, but in its heyday the Star would have reached Jupiter.

Keely’s Star is a massive star as well. It may contain as much as 20 times the mass of the sun. But because of its large mass, it is a star that will run through its life history fairly violently and quickly – the star has already consumed the bulk of its hydrogen fuel in the core; it is shedding vast bubbles of gas into space and is on the way to a stellar graveyard.

It is thought that at the moment the Star is switching to helium, carbon and other elements in a series of partial collapses, refuelings and restarts, but someday soon (astronomically speaking) it will run out of fuel, collapse under its own weight, and then rebound in a spectacular supernova explosion. When this happens – could be tomorrow or a few hundred thousand years from now – Keely’s Star will brighten enormously for a few weeks or months, perhaps as bright as the full moon and be visible in broad daylight. (In fact, when you consider that it takes 640 years for the light from Keely’s Star to reach us, the supernova might already have happened!)

Your easy to use guide to the night sky in your area:

Link to The Sky Tonight (United Kingdom) – http://www.astronomy.co.uk/skytonight

Link to Stardate (USA) – http://stardate.org/nightsky

Link to The Sky Tonight (Australia) – http://aswa.info/nightsky.html

Link to Astronomy NZ (New Zealand) – http://www.astronomynz.org.nz/the-night-sky/the-night-sky-2.html

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Valentine’s Day

I tricked Keely this year – I asked where she would like to go for Valentine’s Day and she said Venice was very romantical, so I agreed. But all the while I was secretly planning; this year, I took her to the lush, tropical forests of Ubud, Bali.

Where in the world are Bali and Ubud?

To increase the confusion, before we caught the Google Earth Jet I presented her with a beautiful dress from Bali and asked if she would wear it for the evening. Considering we were supposed to be going to (chilly) Venice, the thin material of the dress was particularly inappropriate but I wouldn’t explain.

A designer haute couture original from Bali

Leaving #ourWinnie in Mil’s care, we caught GEJ for a lightning flight, landing in one of the world’s secret tropical hideaways – the “Miceroy Resort & Spa” – which is majestically situated on a secluded ridge above the Petanu River gorge along Bali’s “Valley of the Kings” and overlooks breathtaking panoramic views of the Ubud Valley.

Viceroy Hotel sits secluded along Bali's "Valley of the Kings"

As we disembarked from GEJ we were greeted by traditionally dressed Bali girls, who reside in nearby villages, and they escorted us though the water features, Balinese sculptures and tropical lush greenery of the resort gardens to our Villa.

After welcoming us, Bali girls escort us through the Spa's relaxing grounds to our Villa

It was now that I surprised Keely with the news that we were going to stay for the night at the Resort, attending their Valentine’s Day “Full Moon” Dinner & Dance.

"Full Moon" Dinner & Dance ticket

We were booked in for one night in the ultra-luxurious Terrace Villa with its stunning and dramatic architecture and outlook.

Our Resort villa placed the emphasis on the best of privacy and comfort

The Dinner & Dance that night was at the Resort’s in-house restaurant “Cats-Cades” which is one of the most romantic dining settings in the world. An army of chefs was on hand to cater to our every culinary whim. Soft piano music floated across the warm air, harmonising with the background tropical evening chorus. We could have been the only two dogs in the world …….

The 5-star Michelan restaurant "Cats-Cades"

….. we spent a glorious, wonderful night eating and dancing under the bright tropical moonbeams …..

Dancing in the moonlight with my valentine

….. and after a sound sleep in our Villa, we were awakened by gentle early-morning birdsong and the aroma of a freshly baked breakfast.

Light pastries and delicate savouries served to our Villa for breakfast

Google Earth Jet wasn’t due to pick us up until just before midday so we had some hours yet to enjoy our surroundings. And with its emphasis on privacy and comfort, the Resort was perfect for my hard working darling to rest and recharge.

Morning rest and relaxation

Gradually and pleasantly the morning whiled away until it was time to board the GEJ and head back home. Feeling refreshed and renewed, and keen to see #ourWinnie again, we bid farewell to this little-known corner of paradise, certain that one day we would be back.

Keely in traditional Balinese dress

My Sweet Valentine

This year marks our first Valentine’s Day together, so we decided to celebrate by doing something we had always wanted to do – take an early morning balloon flight!

Because I live in Australia, Valentine’s Day arrives earlier for me than Keely. When I awoke on Valentine’s Day, my darling greeted me with this beautiful video of our wonderful love before she retired for the day. Copy and paste this linky into your browser for a real love story:  http://tiny.cc/yifwp
 
The hours flew past for me until it was finally Valentine’s Day in the UK. I didn’t want my darling to have to wait until the end of the day for treats, so when she woke up I had some little things waiting for her:

Especially for my darling

I had also posted a card to her and she opened it up first thing that morning:

Keely with post from Australia!

When it was evening in the UK, I caught the Google Earth Jet from Queensland to pick Keely up from her home in beautiful Yorkshire. Before our return trip however, I took her in my arms and told her how much she meant to me and how much I loved her.

for my Sweet Valentine

We then caught the GEJ back to the RAAF Base Amberley in Brisbane, Australia to catch our hot air balloon flight. It was still quite dark when we arrived at Amberley but by the time we had been briefed on safety procedures and boarded the basket, dawn wasn’t far away and the birds had begun to waken.

There were a number of balloons going up that morning but ours was the prettiest.

Keely & Thomas before take-off

We lifted off gently from the earth, climbing higher and higher until the Airforce Base was tiny below us. By that time the sun was just peeking above the horizon, and we could see for miles and miles. We headed West for a few minutes so I could show Keely the Toowoomba Range & Laidley Valley.

left Toowoomba Range; right Laidley Valley

But our first destination was in the other direction so we changed slip stream, turned our balloon around and headed East. We passed over our closest city, Ipswich, which is like a big country town. You can still get free parking in the centre of the city!

Ipswich City CBD, Queensland

The sun was well up by now; time for some breakfast! We watched the scenery unroll below us as we sipped chilled bubbly Pink Champagne and nommed on chocolates and delicious strawberries & cream.

Pink Champagne, Strawberry & Cream, Carob Chocolates

It didn’t take long before we were at the very popular and touristy Gold Coast, the Mecca for sun worshippers, whale watchers and shoppers alike. Its skyline is unmistakable even from the air, and its beaches stretch for miles along the coast:

left Gold Coast beaches; right Whale Watching

I was anxious that the wind would carry us in the right direction for my surprise, and pretty soon my darling was exclaiming her delight and kissing me. I had arranged for a message to be written in the sand, just for her:

Miami Beach, Gold Coast – message to my darling

As we travelled up the coastline towards Brisbane, I produced a picnic basket full of my darling’s favourite food (sossidges) which we nommed on and threw to the seagulls flying below us:

Picnic basket full of sossidges

Gradually the city of Brisbane came into view, and we could also see the Brisbane River winding its way inland. Of course I pointed out the famous cricket grounds, the Woolloongabba (the ‘Gabba) to Keely:

clockwise from top: Brisbane City, Brisbane River, Woolloongabba Cricket Ground

The winds were favourable and so we decided to head a little bit further north to the beautiful Sunshine Coast, which isn’t (quite) as touristy as the Gold Coast (south of Brisbane) and you can still find a patch of sand on the beach to call your own.

A Sunshine Coast beach

On our way we drifted slightly inland for the breathtaking view of the Glasshouse Mountains. These mountains (hardened molten plugs) are all that are left of volcanoes that have long since eroded away from this Great Southern Land:

Glasshouse Mountains QLD

We also passed over Australia Zoo, which used to be home of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. His widow Terri and kids Bindi & Robert still live at the Zoo and continue to work tirelessly for animals and conservation.

Australia Zoo: Home of Terri, Bindi & Robert Irwin
We turned our balloon East again to the Sunshine Coast beaches, and traveled up the coast past Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore and Noosa:

clockwise, top left: Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Noosa

Then, as time was slipping by, we turned our balloon towards the West, heading straight as the crow flies towards home. On the way we indulged in some very nommy ice cream desserts before touching down again at the Amberley airbase.

Sweets for the sweet

Our first Valentine’s Day was simply wonderful and a day that I will remember and cherish all my life. Having escorted my darling back to her home on the other side of the world, I returned knowing that I am indeed the luckiest dog in all the world to have such a sweet valentine.