The stars never seem to lose their fascination. Constellations you learn as a kid are still there year after year in their season, seemingly unchanging. The Moon in his phases is also like a familiar friend. The sky above is one of the few constants in life.
As a hobby, astronomy at its basic level is also one of the easiest and cheapest there is. All you need is your eyes to see and a heart that appreciates. You don’t even have to travel farther than your yard or even window with decent open view. Clear skies of course help! The best views of the stars are when the sky is as dark as possible.
Sadly, in our cities, suburbs and even rural towns, the light pollution for the most part seems to increase more and more. I for one take heart and am thankful for the plentiful view of the Universe I still have, although I long for the darker skies I remember as a teenager when I began “looking up” in earnest.
That was a few decades ago; I won’t say how long but the Apollo moon landings were happening at the time.
Your level of interest and circumstances, as well as sky conditions, have a lot to do with how much you’re really out under the stars. Some of us rather “go fishing”; I feel that way often, about stargazing. I like to tease about dedicated night sky enthusiasts- amateur astronomers- who are those folks who who stay up all night as long as it is clear, sleeping by day and might have one eye bigger and rounder than the other - the eye that is on the telescope eyepiece most of the time.
I read popular astronomy magazines which often tell about these backyard astronomers who seem to spend endless hours under the stars.
I muse, do these people have jobs to get up to go to? Do they have families to tend to? Of course!
Is it ever cloudy where they are? Of course it is.
You can’t be looking up all the time!
Although I cannot be under the Milky Way Band and seeking out far away star clusters or the moons of Jupiter and Saturn every night, I can be thankful for the moments I do have out with my celestial companions. I relish showing the sights to my wonderful wife as well. It’s great taking at least a stroll in our village at night and pointing out the bright stars by name or planets.
The stars go on shining night after night and in fact day after day whether we can see them or try to see them or not. The Earth keeps spinning and following its circuit about the Sun with the fellow planets of our solar system. The Moon’s “face” keeps an eye on us month after month, ever changing its phase with its celestial rhythm. The Moon need not have anyone to look back at it, or bear ever again having some astronaut’s boot prints tread its virgin dust.
We now know that planetary systems likely circle most stars throughout the Firmament. We know not if any others are inhabited by beings curious and appreciative like we, who wonder at the worlds beyond them or if this far away star we call the Sun has any peopled planet.
Some of us give a deity — may we say God — the credit for it all; others see no need. In any case, we all share that inquisitive nature, too often distracted by every day living and competing priorities. Nevertheless, we all have within ourselves the yearning to know and find our place in the greater world and cosmos, in this slice of time we are entrusted with life. May we remember to take a moment to look up, give thanks, and enjoy the beauty of the starry sky.
New Moon is on July 12.
Keep looking up!
— Peter Becker is Managing Editor at The News Eagle in Hawley, PA. Notes are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please mention in what newspaper or web site you read this column.