Heavenly Bodies

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“Look now.” He stepped away for the telescope and gestured that it was my turn. “Do you see the craters?”

My brothers were off playing in one of the dark corners of the backyard. I pulled my sweater tighter as I leaned in, holding my breath.

There it was.

The moon. 

Like in the books at the library, all of the glorious details were right there. All of the sleepiness that had been folding its arms around me faded away in the excitement of the moment.

“Be careful. Don’t put you eye on the eyepiece.”

I looked again.  

An hour later I was looking at the red spot on Jupiter. Some of the moons were even visible.

At some point in the night I saw Saturn’s rings.

All told, my actual viewing time was under 20 minutes (It was a challenge to line up tiny bodies of light in a large telescope…), but those 20 minutes were some of the most profound of my life. They have stuck with me, vividly, for the past 30 years. Other memories fade. This one does not.

I asked my father to pull it out again on multiple occasions but he never did. I could not understand that. Why buy this thing of you did not intend to use it? What was the point of that? 

It was a huge Celestron 8in schmidt-cassegrain telescope with a bright orange case, and it had a motor that kept it moving with the Earth’s rotation. We might not have had enough to eat sometimes, but by golly we had a giant telescope packed away in a trunk somewhere and knowing that made me feel special. Who else had seen these things in their own backyard observatory? No one that I knew.

Three weeks ago, my father gave me the telescope. Last night the clouds finally rolled away and I was able to let my son see the moon through it for the first time.

The moon hasn’t changed a bit.

Watching his face gave me more joy than what I had felt at seeing the moon for the first time myself. I didn’t know that was possible…

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111 thoughts on “Heavenly Bodies

  1. That’s amazing Victo – to actually see the planets with your own eyes and give your children the same opportunity is very special.So, the moon is the same, eh? What about that new subdivision over there in the corner of Tycho? Hmmm? they are spoiling the lunar landscape with new developments every day and hiding it from us all. i demand a congressional inquiry. ha! As reported by Fox News.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this. And I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only one with a huge, very expensive telescope. My husband bought his telescope years ago and just loves all things astronomy. He doesn’t want a nice car, he doesn’t want nice clothes, he doesn’t want fancy technology. He just wants a super fancy telescope. πŸ™‚ Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Before he started his phd program he took it out about once a week. And that was when he lived in the city and it was a bit bright for great telescoping conditions, but he just loved it. He was also building satellites at the time and loved to go watch them in the sky. Now that he’s in school it’s much less frequent since he’s working/studying about eighteen hours a day (maybe every other month) and it’s ironic because we live in a very low-lit area on the outskirts of Austin, so perfect conditions for looking at the sky. And we have a three year old who just loves looking through it. Maybe this means I need to get more comfortable with it…..

        Liked by 1 person

      • Another thing he’s recently gotten into that may interest you since you like photography….. He loves taking pictures of the sky through his telescope. Our camera attaches to the telescope and takes great photos. I have a Canon 40D, so a pro-sumer level camera. But supposedly it’s one of the best cameras for astronomy photography. (I have no idea why though! I’ll have to ask my husband.)

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  3. Twice I bought a 10 inch Schmidt (Meade), to start up a photography career and twice it was stolen from me… Oh well… Wasn’t meant to be. One thing I loved looking at were globular clusters. There are about 100 of them orbiting the central axis of our galaxy… The star points are so tiny, that it just looks like a big ball of fuzz at first. But after your brain sorts out the details, it suddenly ‘pops’ into view! Simply spectacular… Well, I would leave my spectaculars at home. Enjoy :O)

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  4. Oh how wonderful to pass down the stars and moon through the family in such a fashion. Hopefully your son will also be showing his own children the same some day, or another younger member of the family to keep the tradition alight!

    – sonmi upon the Cloud

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  5. I am also wondering about the theory that your father kept the visions of the heavens so very special to you by his infrequent use of the telescope, Doc. Maybe the thoought that if you moon- and planet-gazed all the time, it would no longer hold its spell over you.

    In any case, congratulations on your new treasure, and the thrill of watching your son’s discovery of the same magic that tickled you 30 years ago. Here’s to many more nights of ocular discovery and pleasure.

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  6. There is nothing in the world like showing a child something for the first time and see them witness Magic…. such is love……the love of a parent to a child or teacher to a student.
    Doc, that is an ” ahh-moment”.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this story. I too have the scope that my Dad and I bonded over in my childhood. A friend knitted a dark blue watch cap with white stars to keep his head warm in for our night time antics and when he died 2 years ago, that was what I put in his coffin to represent me.

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    • Aw! That got me a bit misty-eyed. I wonder how many kids found some sort of common ground with their parents over a telescope? I love that so many other people in the comments got to share this sort of thing with their fathers. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • My Dad was a chemist too so our nightly dinner talk was science based. The telescope was a bigger part of my childhood than the microscope but we did both the macro and the micro. -You will see evidence of that on my Thursday post. In any case, he gave me my love of science and I can think of no better gift.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Surprisingly, my white trash high school had a planetarium. Nobody could figure out how that happened but we were grateful. We became chummy with the science teacher, Mr. Linderman, and he would lend us his telescope for the weekend. We’d take it out into the middle of the Ohio farmlands, smoke a bunch of weed and look at the stars. I love astronomy. There’s an astronomy club that sets up a telescope in the plaza just outside Lincoln Center for public use. After a performance, you can stop and look at Saturn’s rings.

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  9. I loved this, brought back so many memories of my dad and I looked through his telescope. It wasn’t super powerful but we could see the rings of Saturn and the crescent of Venus. When we traveled to Yosemite and stayed in Tuolumne Meadows, we would go on the ranger-led star walks and hear the legends and information about the constellations. With no ambient light anywhere and being 10,000 feet above sea-level, the milky way was extraordinary! Thanks for a great post πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The moon is so intriguing. Neil Armstrong’s boot print is still there 45 years after he walked on the moon and it is undisturbed. Our earth is so ephemeral and transient.
    I really love this quote from Kahlil Gibran:
    I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores,
    Betwixt the sand and the foam,
    The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
    And the wind will blow away the foam.
    But the sea and the shore will remain
    Forever.
    Such a contrast to the moon!!
    xx Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

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