Monday, August 31, 2009

Who Stretched Forth the Heavens?

How black was the night. I had looked forward to the evening planned and anticipated learning about the stars. Experts came with telescopes and enthusiasm. We had a wonderful time with the visit of members of the Astronomical Society of Colorado. They came to the Karval area for fun and some of the darkest nights anywhere. They shared with the community more than we could have dreamed.

Our eyes finally adjusted to the nighttime sky; we began our individual tours, with a sky so big we didn’t have to share our own personal view. The Milky Way stretched out before us, more like a cloud obscuring our view of stars than billions of stars blurred together.

Lines of interested people waited for a chance to see a close up view of Jupiter, or a nebula, or even Neptune. Just as amazing were the constellations pointed out by knowledgeable guides with powerful laser pointers. There are no lines in the sky to help you see Sagittarius as a teapot; or Scorpius a twin-tailed scorpion; the Big Dipper directing us to Polaris in the Little Dipper; Cassiopeia the queen, a distorted W; Draco the Dragon snaking along; Cepheus the king, a tilted house. Who can follow the Dipper’s handle and arch over to Arcturus in the constellation Bootes and spike downward to Spica in Virgo? We all got the chance to try our hands at identifying constellations.

Millennia of stars, stories, and celestial events spread before us. The longer we looked, the more stars seemed to appear. We saw several satellites slowly trace a line across the sky. No evening could be complete without a few falling stars, flaming bits of interplanetary dust flashing brilliantly toward earth. Chatter with friends made the time spent even more spectacular.

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