This evening, the sky gods chose to reveal themselves in a dazzling array of light against a clear velvet curtain. In other words, it was one heck of a gorgeous viewing night! Luckily, a party of twelve visitors had been eagerly awaiting their observation experience. They were not disappointed. The big scope revealed several deep-sky objects of considerable interest, from the massive Jupiter to the distant galaxies, nebulae and star clusters that make up part of universe. No naked eye can imagine such wonders, but the telescope’s vision reveals them to our sight.
The guests gathered in the outdoor observation area for chat and introductions. As it was quite chilly – an understatement! – they enjoyed blankets for added warmth. A group of retired teachers had come all the way from Louisiana and other group members included “locals” from both Yarmouth and Argyle municipalities. Since the Louisiana folks were exploring their Cajun/Acadian connections, and some of the local guests were members of the Acadian community, the talk ranged from astronomy (as expected) to French surname pronunciation and spelling. Common ground was quickly established. All in all, it was a memorable encounter.
The cosmos shone overhead in a ribbon of starlight. The women from New Orleans area were astonished at its brilliance. None of them had ever seen such a view from their own homes, where light interference has blotted out much of the sky. Tim’s half-hour educational/informational talk included a discussion of light pollution and its impact on both human beings and other species. Everyone seemed to be engaged by this topic and some took away printed information for later reading. In small but significant ways, the message is spread. Warm light is a positive thing; blue-white light, negative. LEDs have become the modern scourge of the skies. We need to be aware of this so it can be addressed before we lose nocturnal and/or migratory species to the light invasion. And then there’s the sleep disruption. Tim is a tireless advocate for responsible use of night-time lighting in our region and his efforts are bearing fruit. Local businesses are starting to look at ways of cutting back on their overnight light usage. Their contribution to the cause is very encouraging. Click here to read more about this initiative. http://www.digbycourier.ca/news/tusket-dealership-turns-off-lights-to-spotlight-astro-tourism-213573/
The visitors appreciated Amanda’s treats – brownies to die for, cookies, cheese, hot chocolate – and nary a crumb was left over. While some gathered in the dome to use its telescope, the rest returned outside to stare at the skies and talk quietly. We shivered in the chill, then laughed it off. The sky simply couldn’t be diminished by a minor inconvenience. Two passes of the International Space Station added an extra touch to the viewing. As six astronauts went about their routine tasks, so far above our heads in a context we couldn’t begin to imagine, we sat earthbound and shared more mundane activities. While it would be a remarkable experience to circle the globe as they are doing every 92 minutes, I wondered if the ISS team would also have enjoyed trading places with us, for that brief span under their familiar skies.
The universe is so vast. The world is more contained yet it, too, embraces many perspectives.