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Enjoying the Constellations
Enjoying the Constellations

My most memorable astronomy experience happened when I was camping in the middle of June at a very dark place with my fancy new three inch telescope. Living in a light polluted city all my life I had never seen the stars under truly dark skies. And this was my first "real" telescope! I was really looking forward to seeing clusters and galaxies I previously could only read about. Well it was cloudy and my new telescope sat under cover while I went into my tent and set an alarm for after midnight hoping the skies would clear. The tent storm flaps were down and only netting separated my view of the southern horizon. The alarm went off and half groggy I looked through the netting and saw the outline of Scorpius. "Wow! Scorpius--now that's a scorpion if there ever was one!" I said out loud as I got dressed and quickly went outside to view the constellation sitting perfectly on the southern horizon. I was stunned at the wondrous sight--didn't even think about the telescope--just enjoying all those stars under a dark sky for the very first time! Being familiar with the constellations from many hours of looking at star atlases, I started to pick them out one by one. Hey there's Bootes and beautiful orange Arcturus; that one is Ophiuchus--looks way bigger in real life, bigger still with a snake on either side. Aquila over there--I don't know about an eagle, but it does resemble something flying. On my left there's something dim on the horizon--it's Capricornus! No hope whatsoever of seeing that one from the city. This went on for awhile until I finally remembered I had a telescope with me.

I've had several telescopes since that night many years ago and have seen countless of very dim and distant clusters and galaxies. I have split numerous double stars, scoped-out various nebulae--dark, emission, reflecting, etc., etc. But that first night of seeing the stars far away from city lights remains my most memorable astronomy experience. Now on nights when there is a rapid drop in temperature and heavy dew covers everything making my telescope useless, I just relax, look up and say to myself, "That's OK . . . now I can enjoy the constellations!".

Date Taken: 06/24/2011
Author: Robert S

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