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David H. Levy's Evening Stars: Nature reaches for the stars

November 2010: A rare bloom grows ever higher and closer to the skies.
Agave americana
The author's agave americana grows steadily taller in front of his observatory in these before and after pictures, taken just a few weeks apart.
Wendee Levy
In the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, even the plants entreat us to look to the stars. Earlier this year, about the time a survey team I was in discovered its first CCD comet (a faint 19th-magnitude speck named Jarnac), my agave americana plant began to produce a stalk.

I first noticed its skinny peak as it nudged above the tall surrounding leaves. With each passing day, it grew several inches, climbing and
climbing until now it soars dozens of feet above the ground, always striving for the boundless heavens. It's a thrill to pass it each night, its sheer size always a pleasure to behold.

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