Saturday, December 06, 2008

Stargazing Into The Clouds

When the temperatures dip into the deep-freeze range for the first time during the winter season...zeros and single digits and wind chills with a (-) as the lead character...what do you do?

Wrap up in an extra blanket? Book an immediate flight to a tropical island? Invite a friend over to help keep you warm?

Of course not. You go outside and look at the stars! Cloudy skies derailed those plans, however, and all I was left to stare at was a fuzzy moon...although that was a bit inspirational in its own right.

Woodland Dunes Nature Center in Two Rivers had a stargazing workshop on Friday night, and my dad and I went to see what we could learn...and see. Because of the weather, most of the presentation was held indoors, where we learned a bit about how to star-hop our way across the night sky, by starting with some of the basic constellations like the Little Dipper, Cassiopeia, and Orion.

I've been gazing at those constellations for years (if you're a regular reader of this blog, you know of my obsession with Orion and the moon), but with the help of a star and planet locator that we were given, I'll now be able to start looking for the Northern Cross, and Hercules, and Orion's two hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, along with many of the signs of the Zodiac. (I wasn't aware that Gemini was so close to Orion in the sky...but I'll be star-hopping my way over to the twins on the next clear night.)

After the indoor presentation was finished, we had an opportunity to go outside and peer into one of four telescopes set up on the grounds, and see, stars because of the clouds, and a fuzzy moon.

I talked a bit with the owner of one of the telescopes, who told me about some of the star clusters and planets and moon features and nebulae he's seen. And he casually mentioned that he's been able to locate about 40 galaxies. (for the record, in 1999 the Hubble Telescope found that there may be as many as 125 billion galaxies in the unverse. but you can't put the Hubble in the back seat of your car and drive it to Woodland Dunes to give amateur stargazers a glimpse at the night sky.)

Here I sit at night in jaw-dropped awe of the moon, and he's out hunting down galaxies far far away. I would have stayed all night listening to his stories and staring into space if it wasn't for the overcast skies.

And the biting wind that smacked me in the cheek a couple minutes after he told me about his galaxy finds. So off to my warm car I went, and put my stargazing hobby on hold until a slightly warmer, much clearer night.

"Three things cannot be long hidden:
the sun, the moon, and the truth."


  1. It's awesome, really!, to see far-away galaxies, but our own moon is pretty kick-ass to look at, too. We mustn't neglect what's cozy and close to home just because something sparkly is twinkling far away.

    (Well, that sounds good...I would actually scream, scream, scream with delight if I saw another galaxy through a telescope and I'd keep my eye on it all night long so I'd recognize it again some day. Just you try to get the lens away from me if that ever happened.)

  2. [note to self: buy Tab a Hubble for Christmas.]