Have you taken the time to look up? I don’t mean looking up to a person you admire or even to the tree tops. I’m suggesting fully tilting your head toward the galaxy and taking a gander at the cosmos.
Recently, a member of the I Start Wondering Facebook community suggested that I write a post about the latest celestial transit. Her comment was timely not only because of Mercury’s movement across the sun (which only happens 13 times each century), but also because I’ve recently found myself wanting to stargaze.
Star Light, Star Bright
Like many people, I became preoccupied with the helter-skelter pace of maintaining a career amid the increasing insanity of the 24/7 on-call culture. I finally started looking up in the late 1990s when I read about the Perseid meteor shower. At the time, I lived near an open area on the outskirts of a major city so the ambient light wasn’t quite as intrusive. I took a blanket and a bottle of water and plunked myself down to watch as the meteors periodically zoomed across the night sky.
But I truly didn’t appreciate the stars until 2013 when I traveled to the distant regions of West Texas. Far away from the city lights, I had the opportunity to attend a Star Party at the McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, TX. Unfortunately, it was cloudy that night so we didn’t experience the celestial show that we might have. However, a day later I went to the viewing area specifically created for the Marfa Lights, an unexplained phenomenon consisting of mysterious glowing orbs that come out at night. While I did see these lights (and definitely can’t explain them), the show happening overhead in the clear night sky garnered more of my attention. The sight was amazing; I was dumbstruck by the sparkling planets and stars that I’d never seen from the confines of my urban backyard. For the first time, I truly understood and appreciated the draw of stargazing.
There’s an App for That
Before my trip to West Texas, I downloaded a smart phone app that identified the various planets, stars and constellations. That technology proved invaluable while gawking at the stars outside Marfa. Interestingly, I found several people were more interested in the discoveries offered by my sky app than the Marfa Lights themselves.
Three years later, that app continues to open new windows so I can discover amazing aspects of the skies. I’ve started taking my smart phone outside when I first awaken to see which plants and stars are bidding me good morning. I also use the app to figure out who’s who in the changing night skies. Hello, Jupiter!
Exploring Galaxies Far, Far Away
This amazing app technology creates new opportunities for wonder. Thanks to these daily viewings, my curiosity has been stoked. I plan to return to the observatory and now want to experience the offerings at various planetariums when I travel. I also want to read more about the galaxy and the pioneering explorers who created the star charts. I also will set aside time to watch educational video series created by astronomers such as Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Ultimately, I’ve found that viewing the night sky on a regular basis reminds me of my place in this huge universe and reinforces that my time on this planet called Earth is very, very short. Knowing that, I’ve decided that I want to spend part of the time that remains continuing to look up!
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