My wonder of the night sky began around age 12 on a summer vacation in northern Minnesota. I saw for the first time, the shimmering beauty of the Milky Way in all its glory. I was absolutely stunned at the beauty and mystery of the night sky! Seeing the seemingly innumerable stars while lying on a sandy beach opened a whole new dimension in me. I begged my mom to let me stay up to watch the glittering stars, and luckily for me, she let me explore the sky from the beach every clear night.
My first telescope was ordered from paper route profits at age 15. Many warm and absolutely freezing cold nights were spent finding the Messier objects, observing the planets, and wondering at the moon and its many craters. Some of my fondest childhood memories were made with that first scope in the backyard, when everyone else went to bed and I stayed up to watch the sky.
My love of the sky has not waned one bit. I'll still pull out the blanket and pillow and watch the stars (when my wife will let me ). It’s an important tradition to introduce each of my six children to the wonders of the night sky. I recall a night at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, with a precious daughter cradled under each arm and my oldest son lying next to us, as we watched the wonders of the night sky with a herd of buffalo within ear-shot distance. Two summers ago, I showed my two youngest children the Perseid meteor showers from a dock in rural Minnesota. We made so much noise when the meteors zipped across the sky, we were chastised by grandma who was trying to sleep. I’m sure she thought I was nuts for lying out on the dock, but my children don't - they remember those moments and still talk about them with wonder.
Moments of revelation through observation are what make the hobby of astronomy so enjoyable. No one ever forgets their first look at the rings of Saturn, or the tiny moons of Jupiter through a small telescope. Moments shared with loved ones make it even more special. The shared joy of seeing two falling stars at the same time, and the excitement of their brief spectacular bursts is enough to create a memory for a lifetime. How about realizing that the photons from the constellation Orion hitting our tiny retinas, left their respective stars light years before we were born, and will be lighting the nighttime sky for countless generations to come? Makes our lifespan seem all too brief, yet, these are things of awesome wonder!
I look forward to many grandchildren, to share with them more meteor showers, bright and faithful Orion, red lunar eclipses, and the spectacular glitter of the Milky Way on a moonless light. Hopefully, they too will look up with awesome wonder.