Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Awe of solar systems opens window toward entire galaxy of questions

In The Stars
Damaris Higgins

“The stars are the jewels of the night, and perchance surpass anything which day has to show.” – Henry David Thoreau
By definition astronomy is the study of objects and matter outside the earth’s atmosphere. But to me, it means so much more. I don’t believe there is anywhere more serene or stunning than being outdoors under a starry night sky.
Looking up at the heavens filled with the stars, constellations and planets evokes an indescribable emotion for me. I feel the stars are comforting – we can always call on the familiarity of their companionship. For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated and captivated by the night sky and its belongings.
At one time I believed that my love (more of an obsession) of the night sky was something only I felt. Until one evening at twilight when my beloved friend, Kimberly, somewhat awestruck by the beauty of the sky that evening, asked me what a certain bright star was. At the time I was just beginning my quest for a deeper knowledge of the stars and constellations, and much to my (and her) dismay, my answer was a very disappointed “I don’t know.”
I used a sky map application on my phone to identify this bright star. We were beyond thrilled to know what star it was shining so brilliantly and felt maybe a little bit smarter to boot! Today, knowing what I have learned in the time since then, I fear we may have mis-identified that star – given the time of year and position in the sky, it is most likely not a star at all, but the planet Venus. At least we know now.
Her question led to increased curiosity and much discovery about our shining night companions. I was also delighted to now have a partner in star gazing.
This month as I looked at the calendar of celestial events it occurred to me that perhaps there are some of you who are also intrigued and amazed by the nighttime tapestry of light. With that thought in mind, I wanted to share the upcoming events with you. I hope you enjoy them!
Please note: I am by no means an astronomy professional. I have no formal education or training on this subject, I merely have an unquenchable desire to learn as much as I can about the night sky which gives me the encouragement to dream. I hope this column will inspire you and perhaps we can all learn something together.
April 16-25: Lyrids Meteor Shower – Typically an average shower, usually produces approximately 20 meteors per hour at its peak. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds.
The shower is predicted to peak on April 21 and 22, although there is still a chance to observe some meteors from April 16-25. Since the New Moon will not be visible, this really should be a good show. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight.
The best location to view a meteor shower is far from city lights. The light pollution tends to diminish the show.
April 28 – Astronomy Day Part 1 – an annual event intended to provide a means of interaction between the general public, various astronomy enthusiasts, and professionals.

For the remainder of this article please pick up the April 17, 2012 edition of The Erwin Record.