Thursday, December 7, 2017

Looking Up

The gravel road is dark, save for the orange tip of our lone cigarette, passed between us badass wannabees. A million stars hover overhead, boosting our euphoria. We gaze with strained necks as what must be a satellite glides effortlessly through the twinkling maze. As it wanes, we discuss things bigger than ourselves as we trudge back home.  

This was my first encounter with the stars. Hawaii, circa 1972 where light pollution was scarce and the window to the cosmos was brilliant and magical.

But then things closer to home took precedent and for many years stargazing was reserved for things like the Perseid Meteor shower and a full moon.  

But in the past few years, I've rediscovered my childhood love of the stars. When I'm in the garden with daylight in decline, I look up and see one star directly overhead night after night and it becomes a sort of cosmic companion. I start talking to it. "Good evening, my friend," I'll say. And as we humans are wont to do, I become curious. What is the name of my star? Having already subscribed to EarthSky. I learn that it is Vega and that her companion stars Atair and Denub make up the summer triangle. They aren't as bright as Vega so it takes a bit of darkness before they come into view but I can spot Vega before darkness now that I know where to look. 

We've had clear nights lately so I've once again taken to stargazing. Now that it's almost winter, the summer triangle is leaning westward but Vega is still the first star I see and I greet her. Later in the evening, Orion's Belt and Pleiades and a much higher Cassiopeia are visible and make me feel intelligent for knowing a little bit about the cosmos. And they serve to restore some of the wonderment of my youth. 

Are you a stargazer?


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