Astronomic Adventure: A good reason to stay up late

Bundled up in blankets in the back yard, blinking sleepily, we’d stand ankle-deep in grass wet with dew.  The darkness of the forest loomed behind the house, as Dad aimed the telescope high to pick out a distant patch of night. Taking turns, trying to not shake the stand, we’d peer – at a planet, a star, or a nebula. We’d curl up in lawn chairs, necks craning upwards, for a glimpse of a shooting star. Sometimes the snow crunched underfoot on the deck, and we’d watch a curtain of eerie light hanging high above us curl and billow.

We were lucky in many ways. Dad could borrow a telescope from the school board, and keep it long enough that we had a clear night. We lived far from the city’s bright lights, heck, I don’t even think that back then there was even a street light on our block. Even better, we had parents who were interested in such things, and didn’t mind waking us up to see.

Dad no longer has to borrow a telescope – he has his own. One evening Janice, Cameron and I returned from the water park just as the last glow of sunset was dimming, to find that Dad had set it up in the front. The stars of the Dipper, of Cygnus, of Cassiopeia (I think, it’s been years since I knew the constellations well) were starting to peek out. Nothing like I remember as a kid, but then, they live in the city now. And still far, far better than we see in the middle of Vancouver.  Jupiter was soon to make an appearance, but was still to low on the horizon to see.

Jupiter was the target of the evening, but Cameron was wiped right out after running in spraying water for a good hour after supper. So when it hadn’t made an appearance yet, and Cameron was fussing with the mosquito jacket, Dad aimed the telescope at one of the stars in the Dipper’s handle (don’t ask me which, I consider it pretty good that I remember some constellations at this point). Cameron got a good peek at it, though I’m not certain he really knew what he was looking at.

In we went, to get Cameron a snack I think, and get him all ready for bed. He chatted a little about the telescope and looking at stars as we snuggled down in bed after his story. Dad came in, and just as Cameron was relaxing and getting set to doze off, he peeked in and signaled that Jupiter was out. I didn’t think twice, and roused Cameron. Out we trooped!IMG_2888

This time it was easier. Okay, maybe not easier for Janice, who was holding Cameron so he could see without bumping the tripod! Cameron could see the bright light in the sky, and was told that that was Jupiter. He could see the bright light with two smaller lights near it in the telescope, and understand (I think) that that was Jupiter, closer-up. Just like I can zoom in on something with my camera, a telescope can zoom in on things very very far away.

IMG_2889Now he has come up with a new thing to pretend, as we leave the coffee shop in the morning on our commute with his clean straw in hand. He holds it up to peer through, and announces to all who will listen, “Look! Jooooopiter. See? It has moons. Two of them! Not just one, two! Jupiter!”


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