Star Gazing


Very few stars are visible during twilight, that time when the sun has set below the horizon but the sky illuminated. The moon, however, shines brightly even when it is just a sliver, or maybe half visible. Twilight is a good time to set up for star gazing.

I borrowed a friend’s telescope, one he wants to sell and told me to take it home and play with it. I am on to him. Perhaps he would rather that I bring back some cash instead of the telescope. None the less, it was an opportunity to get up close and personal with the moon, and stars.

From the beginning of human history, we have looked up at the heavens and marveled at the sky. We have made calendars from our observations. Some have made predictions. And now, in just a smidgeon of our history and space exploration, we have a huge telescope orbiting the earth giving us pictures of stars and galaxies beyond our wildest imagination. Just the other day, NASA released a photo taken from the Hubble Telescope that peers into the deepest part of space and “back in time.” The image, with just a speck of a view in the heavens, contains about 5,500 galaxies. I can hardly comprehend the breadth of our own.

I remember camping out in our backyard as a kid. No tent. Just a sleeping bag on the ground. My brothers and I, or maybe a friend sleeping over, would lay there late at night, with no light or air pollution to peer through, and gaze up at the stars. The Milky Way, the galaxy where this little planet and solar system resides, was clearly visible, like a swath of stars stretched across the sky. If we were lucky, we might see a shooting star. We tried to identify the constellations—the easy ones like the big and little dipper. It was an amazing time of innocence and bewilderment.

In my 60s now, I am still bewildered and amazed when I look up at the stars. To see all those stars and know there are more than I can see with the naked eye. To contemplate other galaxies made up of solar systems like our own or astronomical phenomenons that we are trying to understand is mind boggling. It is also very humbling knowing that we are just a speck in something so vast and great.


6 Replies to “Star Gazing”

  1. Brent,
    I’ve been an avid star gazer for some 50+ years. A collection of telescopes are my tools. Modern society has lost connection with the beautiful night sky. Frequently on my motorcycle camping trips, I find great pleasure pointing out the planets and constellations to fellow campers.

  2. I can remember camping out in scouting with a fellow Eagle Scout. He is now a professor with a PHD in astronomy and physics. What a great person to star gaze with. He knew the entire sky and the stories behind it.

  3. It is futile to star gaze in Seattle, too much ambient light. Will be back in the California desert in one month, where it gets very dark. Relaxing in the backyard spa at night, the stars make a great show.

  4. Here in my little town I used to be able to do some simple star gazing in my backyard with my telescope. Then the city put a street light right behind my house. It was still easy to find the moon…I finally donated the telescope to a local school.

    By the way, a really great app for smart phone owners is Google Sky Map. Stand outside, hold the phone overhead and presto, lots of the stars, constellations, and planets are ID’d for you. It saves all that messy map folding and memorization.

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