Learning to See the Sky
This summer I took a trip around the northern shore of Lake Superior with the goal of being somewhere dark and clear where I could get a good look at the sky. I had a dim hope of being able to see the northern lights; that didn’t happen. Another trip is clearly needed. But I did see some beautiful stars.
While I was in Thunder Bay, I paid a visit to the Astronomy Centre at Fort William Historical Park one evening. I was the only person who showed up, and I got a lot of personal attention, including a tutorial on how to take pictures of the sky with my camera.
But the coolest thing was that the docent took my iPhone, put it up to the telescope eyepiece, and took pictures of the moon for me. They’re so beautiful!
As I moved on around the lake, I tried to take pictures on my own from my campsites. Although this was the view from my campsite at Lake Superior Provincial Park, by nightfall it was all clouded over. So not so much success.
Nothing daunted, after I’d been home for a week I went back north to the Dark Sky Park near Mackinaw City to watch the Perseid meteor shower with my friend Kate. I didn’t see very many meteors, even though my attention did not wander from the sky. Most of the time I would hear the people around me go “ooooh” and realize that I had again been looking in the wrong area. (I feel like Donna Noble – let the Whovians understand.) Although I got no pictures of meteors, I did get some nice pictures of the sky. They are too large to add to this post, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Many dots of light, some clouds, glimpses of the Milky Way.
Part of my motivation for this new interest in the sky is the fact that C. S. Lewis loved looking at the stars and often wrote in his letters about what he was observing through his home telescope in the evenings. And part of my motivation is a growing awareness of how different my experience of the night is from the medieval thinkers I most love to study. But I think that most of my sudden need to look at the sky comes from the fact that I’ve just had a very urban year. Now I want to be somewhere that’s away from the city lights, somewhere that’s dark at night.
So maybe now I should start paying attention when the observatory on my campus a few feet away from my house has open viewing evenings….