Stargazing Adventure

by Fonda S. Eby | Oct 1, 2022 | 0 comments

Beehive Cluster, M44
Beehive Cluster, M44. Photo © CC-SA-4.0.

It was a cold, clear 32° F (0° C) Sunday night as my dad and I left our cozy house, bundled in warm winter clothes. Shivering, we walked out to our stargazing spot behind the shop where we would be away from lights. Immediately we were greeted by sloppy, wet dog kisses and a wiggling bundle of energy. We pushed the dog aside and continued walking to where Dad had his star book and the eyepieces and other accessories lined up on a little bench beside his 8-inch reflector telescope.

My dad wanted to share with me a few deep sky wonders he had discovered recently. First, we looked a bit at the crescent moon through the telescope.

“What is that group of stars?” I asked, pointing to a W-shaped group of bright stars overhead.

“That’s Cassiopeia,” he answered. Then pointing to the west, he asked, “Do you see those stars up there formed in a big square? That’s the constellation called Pegasus.” Then Dad showed me a few other constellations, such as the Big Bear and Little Bear, the Big Dog and Little Dog.

“Oh, Fonda, can you please go into the house and grab my red headlight?” he asked. “I forgot to bring it out. Thank you!”

“Sure!” I replied, running to get it. Soon I was back with his light. He likes the red light so it doesn’t hinder his night vision like a white flashlight would. He put it on and then chose a two-inch eyepiece to slip into the telescope. He soon had it situated.

“See those two stars, Pollux and Castor?” he asked, pointing. “They are the heads of Gemini, the Twins. See that white hazy patch of light a little way below them?”

“Yes,” I answered. “What is it called?”

“That is the Beehive Cluster. Here. Take a look through the telescope,” he offered.

“Wow!” I exclaimed. “That’s a lot of stars packed together!”

Then he pointed his telescope in a different direction. “That’s M37 in Auriga, the Charioteer. Take a look.”

I looked. This was a much tighter group of stars than the Beehive Cluster.

Next Dad turned the telescope toward the Double Cluster, which was near Cassiopeia. That is one of the night sky’s finest spectacles. It was very intriguing to see two clusters so close together, yet neither one will probably ever collide with the other.

He repositioned the telescope again, this time focused on the Andromeda Galaxy.

Amazing!” I said, very awed. “That galaxy is w-a-a-ay out there! On pictures it looks a lot bigger!”

“Yes,” Dad answered, “it is two and a half million light-years away. Without the telescope, it is just a soft, oval glow to our eyes.”

Next we looked at the Orion Nebula with its impressive greenish gas floating around. “I didn’t know this telescope was strong enough to pick up colorful gas in the sky!” I said.

After looking at a few more clusters, Dad moved the telescope back to Cassiopeia and Pegasus. “Oh! There it is!” he exclaimed excitedly. “That’s got to be Kemble’s Cascade! At least that’s what it looks like!” He quickly grabbed his star book, turned his light on, and began paging through it. “Yes! That’s what it is!” he said happily. We looked in awe at a long trail of at least twenty stars tumbling across the sky. At the end of the string of stars, there was a small cluster called NGC 1502. “Well, I certainly am glad I found Kemble’s Cascade,” he said with satisfaction.

“How did God ever come up with enough names for all the stars?” I marveled.

“I don’t know,” said Dad with a chuckle. “Well, we should go in soon. It’s 8:30,” he said, glancing at his watch. We put all of the eyepieces back in the case, and Dad carried that into his office while I carried his star book. Then we went back out, and Dad carried the telescope in while I carried the small bench.

“Thanks for showing me your star finds! It was an interesting night!” I said. We walked to the house together in awe of what God had created for us to enjoy in our night sky.

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