Wonder in Our Lives: Night Sky Ruminations
This is a quick post about wonder. Let’s start when we were kids. Remember looking up at the stars at night? That’s the type of wonder we’re talking about. The wonder of a child, boundless, limitless, as deep and wide as space itself.
When was the last time you experienced that? For that matter, when was the last time you gazed up at the sky - and just gazed?
Last weekend, I got the opportunity. A good friend had booked a double campsite six thousand feet up, only two or three miles from Palomar Observatory, home of the 200-inch Hale Telescope.
Thanks to Sputnik, the Palomar Observatory achieved a kind of cult status in our generation. Soon after the Soviets put a satellite into orbit in 1957, suddenly there were science books in the class room. We entered a brief golden age of hero-scientists.
And there were all these iconic images of Palomar to stoke my 8-year-old imagination.
We drive around a corner. There it is, on a nearby ridge, a gleaming white dome, poking out from the trees. Another corner, this time on foot, hulking above us, shimmering, profoundly beautiful.
“America’s Taj Mahal,” I blurt out to my friend. The perfect marriage of art and science.
Once a month, at the campground where we pitched our tents, the Forest Service hosts a star party. Amateur astronomers set up their telescopes for the benefit of the general public.
It has been overcast all day, but just before sunset the clouds break up. We now have a brilliant clear night sky. We walk in the dark without lights. I nearly smash straight into a tall ladder with someone on it.
My eyes start adjusting. I notice the person on the ladder poking his face into a large and shadowy cylindrical object. A telescope. The person is peering into a telescope. But not any old telescope. This one is a monster, a portable observatory in its own right, with a 25-inch mirror.
I climb up the ladder. I look into the eyepiece. I’m looking at a star system being born. Cool. Bob, the owner of the scope, aims his baby at a different spot in the night sky. I’m now looking at a star system in its death throes.
Around me, I hear oohs and ahs. Shooting stars have made an appearance. The wonder, the sheer wonder ...
Your turn: Your wonder moments - go for it.
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