Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Look up to the sky tonight

I was interested in stars and planets as a child, but haven't really thought much about them until just recently. Sure, at one time I was a confirmed Star Wars and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century fan, and I always loved me some close encounters with Mork and E.T., but as most, when we grow up and later become busy raising our own families, we tend to leave behind some of our childhood passions and interests. Or do we?

As a kid I was amazed to see Saturn's rings
outside our science textbook.
I remember one year at Girl Scout camp, maybe as a fourth or fifth grader, our troop leaders arranged for a scientist from the local science museum, the Franklin Institute, to join us with his telescope on Saturday evening for a view of the night sky, the constellations, and the rings of Saturn.

I always loved all our camp programs, but this was an extra big deal for a city girl to have this opportunity to be at a nature camp with big open fields and no city lights to obstruct the night view.

I waited in line patiently for my turn at the telescope and when it was, I was truly amazed. This was real! I wasn't just looking at Saturn in my grade school text book! I was witnessing the real deal in the sky right above me.

Our leaders did a good job introducing us to the planets that year. We visited the planetarium and we probably worked on earning some patch. Unfortunately, Junior Girls Scouts didn't offer a badge on the stars for young girls back then. It was mostly badges like Housekeeper, Hospitality, and Cook. All things I enjoy, but you get the theme here. Back in the day, they weren't truly inspiring girls to be scientists or astronauts. But that didn't inhibit my amateur interest in the night sky.

And then over the years life got in the way. I didn't make time for the night sky. I'm not saying I didn't take my kiddies to the Franklin Institute for a visit to the planetarium or buy them books on the planets and stars to spark their interest, but I was busy being a mom and "keeping the home," if you will.

Fast forward to just this year. Back in March, a friend posted on Facebook what was going on in the sky that night. It made me stop what I was doing and go outside onto my back porch to look up. He was right. It was amazing up there! Mars, Venus, and Jupiter were all lined up and showing off. This all reminded me of those earlier times when I enjoyed learning about the planets and constellations.

The March sky featuring the
moon with Venus and Jupiter
shot by my cheapy camera.
Since I took notice again this March, every night the sky has provided some beautiful view and I find I'm taking more time to check it out. Many nights in the past few months hubby and I have gone out more than once to check out the alignments as the planets moved through the sky. I'm sure some nights neighbors are wondering what's up while we're out in our pajamas looking up to the sky, oohing and aahing, and snapping pictures with our amateur camera. (That alone makes me smile.)

In my quest to remember again what I'm seeing in the night sky, I checked out EarthSky.org to feed my interest. And then I "liked" EarthSky on Facebook, so all the latest info on the night sky is always in my news feed. This is especially helpful, telling me what times to look in the north sky to see this or when I should check out a lineup in the western sky.

My interest is once again sparked. Over the years I never forgot to look up to the day sky for trees, buildings, and clouds. Now once again I'm looking up to the night sky for the constellations and planets.

Just recently I posted on Facebook that either the sky is more amazing this year or I'm now taking more time to look up. I realized that no matter which it was, it was good for me. Others seem to agree and have expresssed more of an interest in doing the same. 

This pastime is yet another way to decompress and relax after a busy day. The sky can put all sorts of things in perspective and remind me that I'm just a speck in this wonderful universe we're lucky to live in.

So if you're interested in the sky above, "like" EarthSky on Facebook and you'll get the latest tips for your viewing pleasure. I hear Mars, Saturn, and Venus will put up quite a show this month, lighting up the May sky as darkness falls. If you can, take some time for yourself and don't forget to look up to the sky tonight.

Until next time, yours in fun and stargazing...Therese

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