We are very thankful for dark clear nights to see the Cosmos; both conditions are vital. You can have a dark cloudy night but be guaranteed, you won’t stand outside under one for long looking up (well, you might, but don’t tell anyone). Moonlit nights are wonderful too.
Unlike many hobbies, you need not spend a dime or travel any farther than your backyard. There is no need to plan vacations around your hobby or spend large sums on big telescopes, to simply look up and appreciate the stars.
What are YOUR reasons for enjoying the sky? Feel free to let the writer know for a future column. What special memories do they bring?
In the 43 years the writer has been involved with this hobby, there have been many special times. It is hard to list them in any order. Some of them include:
1. Seeing the May 1994 solar eclipse. The Sun was about 97% covered as seen from Wayne County, Pa. Sunlight was dimmed like a view through sunglasses.
2. Comet Hyakatuke in 1996 was an amazing sight, only to be equaled two years later by Comet Hale-Bopp. These rare comets had long bright tails easily seen by anyone with eyes to see.
3. "Stumbling" across a very thin needle-like galaxy in my telescope. It turned out to be galaxy NGC 4565, a spiral galaxy viewed from its edge.
4. Rare sightings of brilliant and colorful Northern Lights- I may have seen two displays I would call really spectacular in all my life.
5. Gazing at the Moon one night in the telescope, a flock of geese passed in front in black silhouette. T
6. Traveling to Florida and catching sight of the far-southern star Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to the Sun.
7. Witnessing a "meteor storm" when the Leonid meteors in November 1998 put on a very rare display, with hundreds falling in an hour's time. Some lit the ground.
8. Seeing Saturn’s rings with a small telescope for the first time was wonderful, and has never lost its grandeur.
9. Finding Pluto in my telescope, appearing as an incredibly dim star.
10. May 2012- on a missions trip to Haiti, viewing the MilkyWay Band high in the mountains. The Milky Way was so BRIGHT it actually faintly illuminated the ground.
The list can go on and on. A star-filled night never has been boring, and seeing the same stars again and again, always evoke wonder and inspiration. Seeing the Pleiades cluster or Orion, or any other familiar star group return to your sky each year, is like welcoming back old friends. Enjoy it.