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Planting an Astronomical Seed in the Uintah Mountains
Planting an Astronomical Seed in the Uintah Mountains

Gaining an understanding of man's insignificance in the universe is a lofty goal. One can only marvel at the wondrous sights in the sky that present themselves each evening; they merely emphasize that we are but grains of sand in a vast desert beyond our comprehension.

That feeling of minisculity does not prevent us from peering through a lens, however, to see this perpetual slide show of cosmic wonders.

My first brush with the stars began in 1952 while on a campout with my Boy Scout troop at Camp Steiner in the Uintah Mountains of eastern Utah. We were engaged in nightly observations led by a counselor who had a desire to be someplace else, I'm sure, judging by the urgency with which he presented his lectures. The scouts had to pay attention, however, because identifying certain stars, constellations and planets was a requirement to earn a coveted merit badge in astronomy. Thus, a seed was planted.

It was not until I became an adult that I actually purchased a telescope for my own personal use, and that was only after many visits to the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago when I lived in those cities.

Alas, getting the time to observe the stars came while I lived in Phoenix where the city atmosphere all but obliterated the targets. Trips to the desert were necessarily infrequent, but certainly worth the effort. The problems of looking at just the moon from my apartment balcony were such that it became discouraging to set up the tripod for what seemed to be only seconds of good viewing.

To make matters worse, that darn moon would just keep moving every time I ran into the apartment for one reason or another.

Today, I rely on TV (the History channel and National Geographic, mostly) to keep me abreast of events in the astronomical venue. The seedling that developed from the Uintah experience is still in place, however, and it beckons me. I will try to respond.

Date Taken: 06/14/2011
Author: Donald T
Category: Orion's Astronomy Essay Contest (2009)

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