Ah, these short experiences in life, brief windows which make for significant memories! Sitting sipping coffee listening to a a rooster crow and a cow moo in the distance as the sun rises and glitters off the dewy grass of a field littered with telescopes at the Heart of America Star Party. Birds chirping, a little tuft of steam wisps into the air form my too hot to drink coffee. Coincidentally this coffee’s beans link to another one of life’s finer moments (trip to Hawaii). These memories create an anti-stoic mood, it is after all these moments we live for isn’t it?
What is it about being human that allows us to link to what some might think of as commercial or superficial moments and events? Perhaps coffee being a product of beans and this coming from the earth and stars at a star party being scattered across the night sky are not so superficial after all, perhaps they link us to nature and thus captivate our minds and resonate in our core and souls.
Probably one of the coolest celestial objects I looked at this weekend was in someone else’s telescope. I had meant to research and prepare to find some of these myself. All in all it was a tiny blip of light, fading in and out revealing light that took more than 8 billion years traveling at the speed of light to reach my eyeball. Hard to fathom isn’t it? Was it beautiful? No! It was intellectual!
Thinking deeper, maybe it was all the smoky looking knots of nebula’s I spent my night chasing, such as the Heart Nebula, and the Soul Nebula! Of course with names like that, how can you not believe you truly weren’t having moments to remember? There was also many more, the Bubble, Crescent, Pacman, Iris Nebulas, and so many many more!
I thought about all this as I walked around a little before returning to finish this post, there was some morning fog, it actually rolled in over us at midnight and caused the majority of us to cover up the scopes and go off to sleep early. I too a few pictures though found below!
As I sit down again to write this people are waking up, one by one they begin to tear down their Astro camps, a bird screams, almost as if angry from the sky overhead, perhaps protesting our nearing departure but more likely warning others of our presence now that there is more movement.
I took off my own cover to accelerate the drying process of my soaked telescope. The dew from the past few evenings has left everything soaking wet. Even the dew heaters on the scopes couldn’t all keep up with natures fine mist!
I awoke early, around 6:40 and knew I wasn’t going to sleep more, despite being up past 1AM. Yes, I had quite a night with the latest new gizmos I added to my large telescope. Probably the most fun one of them was the ability for it to link to a star chart application on my iPad that allowed me to see my telescopes view it on the chart as I moved the large set of optics.
Why is that cool? Well, most beginners have no idea just how many things we can look at with a telescope of moderate aperture, mine being 18 inches. The star chart application shows them and allows me to move the telescope on to one by putting the cross hairs over it and then looking in the eyepiece to fine tune it. With this newly added feature I was able to see so many new things I had never viewed before.
Some objects I viewed were extremely faint and had to be viewed first out of the corner of my eye (averted vision) to catch their dim contrast against otherwise black space. The Bubble nebula was maybe the hardest, just barely detectable and taking 35 minutes to validate I was actually in the right place by matching up stars I was seeing in the eye piece with stars on the star chart application.
While it’s nice to just have time to view what you want, there are always a few moments when visitors drop by and ask to see what you’re viewing in the eyepiece. Of course having a larger telescope one is almost obliged to show them and then show them maybe a few other things they haven’t seen. What makes it worthwhile? Sharing your own excitement is always fun of course, but when a young kid is looking through your telescopes eyepiece and genuinely proclaims that what you showed them was so very cool, it really makes one smile. I certainly did.
I had one such proclamation last night on the veil nebula, both east and west, but the east got the louder sound bite. I believe she was genuinely taken by the experience of seeing this big black looking light canon and a computer strapped to its side with a red start chart and relaxing celestial music playing as she climbed the latter and looked into the heavens. She commented on how relaxing the music was, it was just music built into the Sky Safari iOS app I was using. Her Grandpa seemed to enjoy it as well, even though I was certain he had seen many such views before.
As I having been writing this, I took a break to pack up some more of my personal slice of the great star camp. That’s how I operate, pack a little, relax a little and easily achieve my goal of pulling out of camp on time. It takes a while to get it all to dry before packing it completely away. I camp with a large popup trailer and it usually takes until about 10:00 – 10:30 to dry enough to be put away. Its really nice to have along when observing, makes a great retreat to warm up, drink some coffee and be ready to return to the viewing field for a few more hours!
As I was doing this work to pack up, sure enough that girl showed up and said hi and thanks. She wanted to hang around a bit and chat, maybe hoping to extend her experience. I confess I was moved by it a little as it was at that moment I knew she had really experienced something special looking through my telescope the night before. It was so very ironic that I had already written about it only to have it confirmed by her showing up to chat!
All this my friends is the magic of amateur astronomy and being on the field of starry dreams while attending a star party. Going off to dark dark sky’s, far away from city lights opens up a whole new world to us, even with the naked eye there is so much to see. Instead of a washed out grey white looking sky with a few dots you get looking up in the suburbs, you see literally millions of white dots, too many to ever fathom counting. The Milky Way is a sight to see and people often comment about seeing clouds overhead only to learn that they are seeing our own galaxy from the inside out. The stripe runs from one end of the sky to the other and can be memorizing in itself.
I myself have delved into the depths of this extraordinary hobby over and over again, its addiction is ever lasting, ebbing and waking like the sun and the moon. The best part about it all, there is always something to view, be it with ones eyes, binoculars, or telescopes of all types and sizes. Once can start with nothing but a dark sky and a simple star map and learn the constellations and asterisms. Asterisms are patterns of stars people use to help learn and remember the sky. Then if the interest to see more bites, you can slowly work your way into it, binoculars, then maybe a small telescope. Just pray you don’t get what we jokingly call aperture fever!
Orion the Hunter – his belt is home to the Orion nebula – stunning to view in a telescope!
Created with Sky Chart – its free!
If you have never attended a Star Party, do yourself a favor, add it to your bucket list and see if you can make it happen. Usually you can find one by googling that will be within driving distance. Pack a tent, get their a little early before dark to setup and then take a walk when all the telescopes are up and running and witness the heavens as you have not seen them before. Don’t expect views in the eyepiece that look like Hubble Telescope images. No, most of the objects will appear grayish, and some will be blue with the notable colors being from stars and planets varying from white, blue, orange and reddish.
Your closest astronomy club will gladly get you started, give you free tours, access to free equipment and all sorts of other fun possibilities! Look up in the darkness! There’s a whole universe waiting for you to explore! This link is also a place to start!
Hope you Enjoy!
Copyright 2016 Mark Abraham