Our bit of land is nestled into the eastern slope of a tiny bowl-shaped dip in the earth formed where two little valleys intersect, but it has a great big bowl of sky above it.
Watching the night sky is easy forget in our hectic, well-lit world, but the perspective of the cosmos is out there waiting every night.
Our timeless tutor.
I suspect humans have been looking for meaning in the night sky since we stepped out onto the African savanna.
Stargazing takes me back to laying on a blanket at night with my grandparents on their farm in the Sangamon River Valley of Central Illinois. We would lie, looking up, enveloped in the thunderous song of cicadas, while my grandpa and grandma pointed out constellations and talked about their lives.
The sky was a lot blacker then.
But even now with light pollution from nearby towns, the BP gas station on the highway a few miles away and my neighboring farmer’s dratted ever-blinding barnyard light — on a clear night, it’s well worth spreading out that blanket, lying back and looking up.
Last night we watched the big dipper vanish into the rising mist, caught one lonely shooting star and traveled in and out of the sailing clouds with a 3/4 moon.
Like most people, I have probably learned as much about the stars by gazing at my computer screen as I have from the sky. Lacking grandparents now to show me the constellations, I’ll settle for the internet.
Here are a few sites that I enjoy.
ASTRONOMY PICTURE OF THE DAY
There is so much out there beyond our tiny planet, and thanks to NASA we have glimpses of our vast and beautiful universe. This site, Astonomy Picture of the Day, posts a different image of photograph and a few words by an astronomer to put it in perspective.
I love this gadget. I’ve got it on my homepage, so even on those nights when I am in the city and in the house, I still have a sense of what the moon is doing. Keeping in daily touch with the phases of the moon (even via computer) makes me feel connected to a rhythm that humans have been plugging into since we stepped out into the savanna.
StarDate is the public education and outreach arm of the University of Texas McDonald Observatory.
You may have heard their radio spots on public radio.
Their website includes a Constellation Guide, weekly stargazing tips, how to pick a good viewing spot.
You can also subscribe to their free monthly email newsletter that will keep you updated on stargazing highlights and upcoming StarDate radio programs.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ONLINE LINK TO THE NIGHT SKY?
LET ME KNOW.
Categories: TALES FROM OUR 44 ACRES