IT’S THE QUIET THRILL OF your first look through a telescope and seeing Saturn’s rings for yourself. It’s the hush before the planetarium show begins. It’s the ancientness of the constellations. It’s knowing that others before you, perhaps all the way back to Australopithecus, saw the same stars/planets/Moon you do. It’s the quaintness of the constellation (and star) names.
It’s the alone-with-the-Universe feeling of witnessing the silent stars at 3 a.m. (It’s the how-small-I-am feeling, too.) It’s the universality of the Stellar Brotherhood — that everyone on Earth can enjoy the same celestial sights (depending on latitude, of course). It’s watching the slow creep of shadows (or light, depending on your circumstances) across the lunar surface. It’s the dim glow of the Milky Way. It’s knowing how big
the Universe is: so huge that light takes eight minutes to get here from the Sun, or eight-and-a-half years from Sirius, or an average of 80 years from the Big Dipper, or two-and-a-half MILLION years from the nearest galaxy. It’s poring over hobby magazines and trying to expand your brain through understanding the articles on black holes, gravity waves, dark matter. It’s the apparent steadiness of the North Star. It’s seeing Orion the Hunter and knowing that we’re in winter, or Scorpius in summertime. It’s setting up your equipment and synchronizing the finder and main ‘scope. And it’s a great excuse to take out the garbage every night, and Just Look.