Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Starry Night

I read that two dwarf galaxies were discovered around the Milky Way by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. This science story made me walk outside for a bit of star gazing. I could really only see the brightest stars. It's just slightly too bright here to see the haze of stars that comprise our galaxy. I have seen the haze of stars.

My first memory of seeing the Milky Way was on a trip to my grandmother's house in Natchez, MS. I think it was just my mother, my sister, and me in the car. We must have left after school because it was dark by the time we were traveling on Hwy. 61 outside of Natchez. My sister and I were laying on the large bench back seat of our Buick LeSabre looking out the window. "Wow," one of us said, "Look at the stars." My mom pulled the car to the side of the road. We all got out to gaze at the streak of milk across the sky. "So that's why it's called the Milky Way," one of us said. "Wow."

Montana is another wonderful place to see the Milky Way. Or central Washington state in the Cascades. Or on a cruise ship headed to Alaska. I used to be able to see some of it from the beach in Pensacola. Not now. There are too many lights.

I once heard an astronaut speak at the University of Washington. He said that the view of the stars from the surface of Earth is paltry compared to seeing the stars unfiltered by the densest part of our atmosphere. I can only imagine.

What are your memories of seeing the Milky Way? Where were you?


Genevieve said...

We can see the stars fairly well here if we walk down the lane a little to get away from the yardlights.

But the best stargazing here at our rural Kentucky home is poor, compared to stargazing in the Nebraska Sandhills. There, the open spaces are vast and artificial light does not pollute the skies. In fact, there is an annual stargazing event in the Sandhills called The Nebraska Star Party."

My son told me about seeing the stars from the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rockies (New Mexico) when he was at the Philmont Scout Ranch. I'm glad he had that experience of really clearly seeing the stars because they are a beautiful sight.

Amka said...

I don't realy have a first memory. I have lots of family in Idaho, so we used to drive the middle-of-nowhere roads in Idaho and Utah a lot. Camping up in the mountains around here gives a good view too.

In my old back yard, just across the street from where we are now, I used to actually be able to see the Orion nebula with the naked eye. But alas, our backyard now faces a busy, lighted road.

Maverick said...

I remember that night of seeing the Milky Way; in fact, I can see it perfectly in my mind's eye.

I have lots of memories regarding star and watching the skies - I'm a star gazer. But one of the best is when I was driving back from Memphis to Tupelo, MS on Hwy. 78, which is a very dark road in the Northeastern part of MS; great for seeing the stars. And on this night, you could see them so wonderfully. So I pulled over - I was by myself and it was a deserted road, but hey - I'm a big girl. Anyway I could see Orion and it just made me smile - you see I have a friend who lives across the Pond and the only two stars we can both see at the same time are the Moon and Orion - so it is special to us - or maybe just me. I told my friend of this and we figured out that he was looking at it on that same night was well - just a few hours earlier than I was. It is a wonderful, lovely memory for me.