Stargazing: A Journey

Back when I was a girl growing up in a steel town in Scotland, I used to hang out of my bedroom window at night searching for the stars. It wasn’t easy. The sky was usually a strange purplish-orange from the blast furnaces at the steel mill a mile or so away and it was difficult to see anything through the polluted haze. I knew they were there, though, and I hoped I’d get a better view one day.

Fast forward to many years later: I’m lying on my back in a desert in the south-western United States, stunned into silence by the clarity of the night sky, the millions of stars and the magnificent sweep of The Milky Way. Here, finally, was the view I had hoped for all those years ago. I knew I would never see one better.

I was wrong.

Fast forward another decade: I’m clicking around on my new computer – the first time I’d actually had one in my home – and I come across images taken by the Hubble telescope. I saw stars, planets, galaxies, clusters, pulsars, supernovas, nebulas and so much more. See them for yourself here. I’ve spent hours upon hours looking at these images and wallowing in the dreadful beauty of my own utter insignificance. I find it strangely relaxing.

Do I have a favorite? I do indeed. Just as I once stared into space and saw nothing, so too did the Hubble, focusing on a tiny patch of seemingly empty sky. This was the result:

The Hubble Telescope, I just discovered, celebrated its  birthday on April 22. How very strange to realize, after so many years of following its work, that the Hubble and I share a birthday. Some things in the universe are just, I guess, cosmically aligned. Do you have any stargazing stories to share?

Diane Dooley

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9 comments

  1. I still remember going on a “field trip” in elementary school. We all just came to the field next to the school at night to look at the stars. It was gorgeous and so moving, even for me as a little kid.
    Thanks for the reminder of such a wonderful moment in my life!

    1. I’ve brought my kids outside late at night to see the wonders. My night sky now is flawless. Living in the sticks definitely has its advantages.

  2. Lying on the hood of a friend’s mom’s car late one summer night, staring up at the sky, just past curfew, not wanting to move and not caring if I got into trouble. Quiet conversation and an amazing view were worth the grounding : )

  3. Oh, yes! Definitely worth a grounding. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Stars were brighter when I was a kid – they weren’t really, but there were less of our own lights in the way. I take my kids out now but they are less interested in the stars – I think because they can’t see them as well. But I showed my oldest this video and she was shocked at just how many galaxies there must be. So was I. Thanks!

    1. More than a hundred billion galaxies. Hard to get your mind around that number, isn’t it?

  5. Hazel Higgins · · Reply

    I got more interested in astronomy with the arrival of the hale-bopp comet. I had a caravan based in rural south west Scotland at the time (away from the haze of steel town pollution and that old sulphurous smell it created) and loved showing the kids the constellations. I now have a telescope and know the moon well! its such a relaxing and fascinating pass-time, love it!

    1. How could I have known you so long and not know that you are a stargazer too? How strange! You’ll well remember the bedroom window of which I speak. You hung out of it a few times yourself.

  6. […] Stargazing: A Journey […]

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