Diggin in the sky

{A visit from Chris, a.k.a. Papa…}

When I was a kid and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up I would tell them that I wanted to be an astronomer. Sometimes they would confuse ‘astronomer’ with ‘astronaut’ and think I wanted to go to space. But my attraction has always come from that feeling of awe when one looks up into a clear, starry sky. The magnification of a telescope only increased that awe. Getting to know the various planets, constellations, comets and nebulae over the years mellowed my stupefied awe into long-lasting wonder and curiosity.

Fast forward to adulthood and, well, astronomy wasn’t what I ended up pursuing as a profession. If, however, there was a place where amateurs thrive and contribute to the discoveries alongside professionals, it is in the field of astronomy. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those amateur astronomers on the cutting edge, but my instrument can take me farther into the cosmos than Galileo was able to go.

Here in the Pacific Northwest clear skies aren’t the most expected weather, but we get our fair share. And when we do, I can be found in the driveway with my 6-inch Dobsonian telescope. It is, in no exaggerated terms, a mirror at the bottom of a cardboard tube with a small angled mirror at the top of the tube and a hole in the side for my lenses. Okay, that was slightly understated, but only very slightly, I promise. I also bring along a Nikon D90 and a tripod so I can share the cosmos with my Facebook friends and family. It has taken me a while to learn how to use the telescope and D90 in combination for decent pictures. In fact, my photos are improving with every clear sky, so I’m still coming along in terms of skill.

I have also been known to wake up a kid or two in order to share this wonder with them. They never protest and often want to stay out longer than I do. The good news I get to share with them is that this sky isn’t going anywhere anytime fast. Or to the extent that it does, it will be back tomorrow.

Jupiter

Jupiter's Stripes

Moon

Saturn