Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Stunning photos

I had some friends over Sunday.  My friend Russ is a stupendous photographer and took the opportunity follow the kids around with his camera.  He sent these to me today with this note, “WARNING: Nearly unbearable cuteness headed your way!”   I’ll say!  Thank you so much, Russ.  What a treat!


He even snuck one of yours truly.


You can view more of Russell Middleton Imagery’s photos or contact him on Facebook.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Under The Stars Again

Apparently I cannot have a beautiful night without sharing about it.

I’d had an exciting day yesterday and was beginning to come down from my high, chewing an the events of the day, breathing deep and trying to ease my way down instead of crash-landing as I am wont to do.  A night under the stars would be just the thing.  It was forecast to be clear soon after dark, the first clear night in awhile and the only one in sight for at least a few more earth-rotations.  I was looking forward to unwinding at the telescope in the company of a friend.

The night sky is incredibly therapeutic. It’s easy to relax in the dark, your sense of touch and hearing heightened (we had a bonus chorus of spring peepers last night), even your vision is heightened in a way.  It’s simple bliss to lose yourself in distant galaxies, nebulae, star clusters. Mapping deep space objects and logging them is almost like sitting down to a beautiful jigsaw puzzle.  It's nice to just work on something for awhile, let your brain be pleasantly, quietly occupied.  If you want to go deeper you can read about each of the objects, learning about them, and to go deeper you just… contemplate.  Just stop and consider that the fuzzy, faint star-looking thing in your lens is another galaxy, maybe millions of light years away.  Think about that for a minute.  Don’t you feel small, insignificant and somehow… special?  You can plug away at finding objects and logging them, but if you let what you’re doing really sink in it enhances the experience like nothing else.

I’ve only had just a few nights to get comfortable at the telescope, but already I see a pattern emerging; spend 20-30 minutes just enjoying the sky, unwinding, letting my eyes adjust and letting the day go; digging in and logging some objects, learning some constellations, then stepping back and really… seeing.  I set the logbook aside and play with the scope, meandering through the sky to see what I can see for the pure pleasure and wonder of it. 

(M57 The Ring Nebula.  One of the objects we viewed last night.  Granted, it doesn't look quite this spectacular in the scopes we use, but it's still worth a wow.)

So, there's that.

And in my particular case, as I’m viewing at a friend’s place with one of his telescopes, often with other amateur astronomer friends, there's the added bonus of companionship.  There's someone to banter with, ask questions of, share geeky star stuff with.  Better yet, these have become good friends with whom I am comfortable totally unloading my brain of whatever junk needs unloading and who often help me organize it, make peace with it and pack it back up.  And this is totally mutual.  Friendship in the most basic and beautiful sense.  Human connection.  Mahna mahna.

Now, maybe I’m easy to please; just plop me under the stars on a clear night and give me someone to share it with, but I ask you, is there a better way to spend an evening?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Meeting Saturn


I just returned home from an evening at Denny’s place.  Yeah, I should be sleeping, but this can't wait.  Maybe I could write tomorrow, but maybe sleep will kill the magic.

We had a nice dinner with friends, the children got to kayak around the lake some, and we got a little telescope time in before the sky clouded up again.  Not a lot of clouds, but enough.  So, the evening turned to rambling, thoughtful, humorous conversation under peek-a-boo stars.  I could devote an entire post to how enjoyable and comfortable it all was and how it satisfied (or maybe just viciously stirred up) some deep need of mine to connect with other human beings, but I will spare you.  When I finally gave in to my better and less interesting judgment that I should go home, Denny checked the time and realized that Saturn would be up and visible with the scope.  An unexpected treat for me.

A few months ago Denny introduced me to Jupiter.  I clearly remember my first glimpse of those red bands and the nearby tiny points of light I was told were its moons. I unexpectedly fell in love.  Meeting Saturn tonight was like meeting someone you have heard things about and have looked forward to meeting, wondering if they would be as impressive as you expected.  When I stepped up to the scope I thought briefly several guys I’d met when I was a teen, first online and later in person.  Thankfully, no awkward expectations here!  Saturn was…  wow.  Unreal.  So bright, so beautiful, so… iconic.  I wanted to cry.  What a perfect nightcap.

I’m now a rather raw bundle of emotion after exploring the inner-workings of mankind and the universe.  The minute and personal and the vast and impersonal.  A bumbling girl struggling under a mountain of random and often errant thoughts, trying to make peace with her base humanity, reaching out and not only connecting with another human but with the whole damn universe.  I feel at once extremely lucky and extremely… small.