With the weather finally warm and an impending snowstorm on the horizon, I thought it a good night to do some stargazing. This is still a great time of the year to look up. Orion is still up, with Sirius trailing behind him. Jupiter and Mars are up “early” in the night sky. Tonight the moon was full and wondrous through the telescope, even through the trees, branches obscuring. Max and I chose to focus on Jupiter this evening. It was almost directly overhead and so a bit difficult to pull in with our little Schmidt-Cassegrain, but we managed. Once it was in focus, it was astro-tacular! We were able to see Jupiter himself and two small dark lines representing some of the darker clouds. We were also able to see two of Jupiter’s four main (or Galilean) moons (feel free to click here for A Touch of Jared. He wrote a really detailed history on these four big guys). Ganymede and Europa were just to the right of Jupiter, but were inverted by the scope, so technically they would have been to the left. My son was amazed! He has looked through that same lens several times before, when I could slow him down enough to do so. All those other times, he just saw dots and couldn’t wait to run off again. Tonight, he really SAW Jupiter for the first time and realized what he was looking at. He SAW his moons, Europa and Ganymede. He SAW the two dark lines on Jupiter himself. He got it. I think he started to realize why daddy likes to sit outside in the dark and stare up into the dark for short or long periods of time.
It was a very touching and special night for me. Now, I share it here. Not something I am used to, but I am learning. It is for the greater good or astronomy, learning, and the encouragement of stretching the horizons of our children. Much like Lucretius’ cherub shooting arrows into space (gold star if you get the reference), we need to let our kids stand on those walls and decide if our imagination is limitless (changing the reference for my own relativity) or does it just put up walls for on which we stand and shoot arrows. Good night, America, and keep looking to the stars!