The following manuscript was written after a particularly wonderful night observing in late August of 1997. I submitted it to Sky & Telescope's "Focal Point" column, but it was not accepted for publication. I received a really nice letter from Kelly Beatty explaining why, and I understood is reasons. I'm glad he took the time to read it and give me his comments.

I then submitted it to my local club's quarterly publication, the "Inside Orbit," anonymously. I did it that way because of a falling out with the club (the current cabal of people ruling the association don't like me and wouldn't believe it was me who wrote it). Guess what? They rejected it as well. So, since I wouldn't reject my own work, I have put it here. Comments are welcome if you want. (addendum 17 March 1998 - Over strenuous objections of others, the "editors" of the local journal put it in their Spring edition. That's kind of stupid - a Fall article in a March publication).


Reflections Under The Starry Sky

As the cool August evening descended, and in need of a quiet, peaceful place for some contemplation, I took refuge by traveling to the West Michigan version of Mount Olympus - The James C. Veen Observatory, which is owned by the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association.

Yes, as Mount Olympus had its Gods - Zeus, Hera, Apollo, et. al., so did the Veen Observatory in its glory days. The names of these revered are whispered softly by the surroundings on this solemn night under the stars.

As I sit outside in the dimming twilight, watching the fires of heaven come out with the envelopment of the deepening velvety blackness, a peaceful wave of awe and contentment are unleashed as my gaze travels the length and breadth of the celestial sphere.

Sagittarius is in the southern sky, and I can see Jupiter peeking it's mighty head above the trees to the southeast. As darkness gathers, the brilliant soft band of the galaxy arcs over my head, it's quietly flowing river of starlight bathing the night in its ghostly luminescence. The star clouds of the Milky Way are easily discernable as I travel from Cygnus, through Scutum, and finally farther to the south.

Despite the annoying glow from the lights of man, I can easily acquire stars dimmer than 5th magnitude (+5.4 in Cygnus), so I know it is one of the better nights here in the region of the world. The crickets and other sounds of nature waft around me as I change places every once in a while, moving from the steps to the observation deck, to resting on the ground to take in the majesty of the night sky.

As I watch, there are countless stars dying and others are being born. Galaxies are traveling to places unimaginable by man, taking their stellar families with them on their grand voyage. Many of these cosmic events I can just wonder about, as their distances preclude me from observing them in real time.

There are no intrusions or distractions on the hill to disturb my reflections of my inner self, as well as my visual journey of the grand countenance of the cosmos spread before me. I forsake the use of instruments, preferring to gaze upon the star fields with unaided eyes. No other people are here - I am The Man Alone. Unfortunately, I am disturbed in my journey by the technology of man - aircraft fly above me, sirens sound in the distance. Occasionally I observe a satellite orbiting the earth, but of this intrusion of technology I am not troubled, as these mechanisms have become part of the heavens.

It is not only a time of reflection, but a time of wonder as well. As I look inward, contemplating my life and the path I have chosen, and the unknown paths in the journey ahead, I also look outward to the stars, striving for a harmonic balance with the wonders of nature. To explore - that is what drives us. To journey into the unknown; to discover things about our Universe and ourselves. What wonders lie in wait for us out in the uncharted depths of interstellar space? What wonders can we find searching our soul? Both are a voyage of a lifetime.

I wander somewhat aimlessly through the star fields spread out above me. Gazing upward, one almost gets a sense of a strange, three-dimensional perspective, as it feels that you can fall right into the stars. I think about our ancestors and how they viewed the constellations, naming the various star fields for things they envisioned in the heavens. From these people and their various mythologies, we now have references in the sky, as well as an insight to the minds of our forefathers. What were their thoughts as they gazed upward? Did their imagination take them as far as ours does, billions of light years away, to the boundaries of the known universe?

What will our children see in the skies in the future? As we now give our own "cute, personal" names to the objects above us, will they do the same? Is it imprinted in our nature? What wonders will they see in the years to come? Will they be sitting out under the stars of a now unknown planet light years away, making the same journeys of the mind that I do now, one of the inner soul and the heavens above, and wondering what and how we thought? Possibly. This might be a great, wondrous circle of human intelligence, as generations of human beings look inward and outward over the vast span of time.

There are no answers for me in my travels this night. Only more questions. Questions about my life. Questions about the future. Questions about the past. But there is one thing I am sure of. I will be out under the stars again, seeking the answers to my questions as I try to become one with the cosmos.


Return to the Articles Page