Looking up at the night sky, here at home, the stars seem so far away…..and so few of them can be seen with the city lights around us. Though, here we can see more than some of the other cities we have lived in.
As a young girl I was fascinated by the night sky, imagining the “other” worlds out there, wondering if there was life somewhere else, and amazed by the twinkling stars in the sky, twinkling just for me. I used to love to lie in the grass at night and just watch the stars, letting them create images for me.
And then I was told that science and math were “a boys world”, that girls weren’t smart in those areas….so I let go of my fascinations and my dreams of discovering what was beyond those bright stars.
Last night my curiosity was reawakened as I sat atop Kitt Peak and stared at the night sky. It was dark there, really dark and I could see thousands of stars….all there to remind me of the dreams I once had and to spark my curiosity about the world I live in and the universe my world was in.
This night was possible because my husband loves space and astronomy and he wanted to celebrate his milestone birthday at Kitt Peak National Observatory. We arrived before sunset, had dinner and then we were taken by the guide to a viewpoint to observe the sun setting on the horizon. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL! The colors were vibrant, painting the sky in hues of red, orange and blue…..and even a green glow just as the sun disappeared. Atop this mountain we could see forever.
Then it was time for the night viewing and boy was it dark. We were taken in smaller groups to view the stars through the telescopes. We sat in an open air observatory watching as satellites, or maybe just some space junk, slid across the sky, sparkling as the sun glinted off of the metal and we were in awe of how many we could see while sitting there in the dark.
And then it was time to look through the telescope…..we saw star clusters, nebulas, and two different galaxies….all unable to be seen with the naked eye. I was amazed and somewhere deep inside me I could feel that excitement again….I wanted to see more, learn more, explore more.
And when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did. We viewed Jupiter and four, yes four, of its moons. It was one thing for me to see photos of Jupiter and to imagine what it must be like when I see that bright “star” in the night sky. But standing there, seeing Jupiter with my own eye through the lens of the telescope, I was thrilled, ready to go into outer space and explore all that we know is there and all that is still to be discovered.
And then we saw the moon through the telescope lens……every one of us, as we stepped up to the telescope and looked through the eye piece, gasped excitedly…..the moon that we see every night with our naked eyes was huge through this lens…..the shadows, the craters, the terrain, all felt within reach. It was spectacular. This was why man wanted to walk on the moon, to see it in person. I can only imagine how exhilarating that must have felt.
The rest of the night tour was spent finding the constellations and stars with the help of one of the guides and viewing some of them through binoculars….aiding us in seeing that some of the “brightest” stars are really more than one star.
This night brought back my curiosity about the earth, our galaxy and the universe. I cannot wait to see what more is out there, what new discoveries we make and am looking forward to more nights spent atop a mountain, looking to infinity and beyond.