A-Z Blog Challenge: “U” is for Uranoscopy




noun: Observation of the heavens or heavenly bodies. 

A-Z U blog collapsed star -nasa
Collapsed Star. Photo nasa.gov

I enjoy star gazing.  There’s something about looking out into the darkened sky and seeing a speckling of silver, blue and reddish-colored dots as far as the eye can see.

When I look to the west on a summer night and see Venus or other planets, I’m always amazed that we are close enough to see these large orbs in the sky.

Falling Star. Photo: jpl.nasa.gov
Falling Star. Photo: jpl.nasa.gov

My first memory of uranoscopy was in high school when I spent the night in the mountains, sleeping outside on a wooden porch.  I remember looking up and watching falling stars streak across the sky – little wisps of light leaving momentary memories of their paths.   It was the first time I’d even seen them and hated to close my eyes in case I might have missed something.

Then about twenty years ago, I took my kids to a star-gazing gathering at a small observatory south of Visalia, CA.  Amateur and professional astronomy enthusiasts with all shapes and sizes of telescopes were available to share nature’s night.  As we walked around, they aimed their lenses at areas of the sky and proceeded to explain what we saw.

I remember looking up and seeing a large planet, but through the magic of magnification I discovered it was Saturn, complete with its many encircling rings.

Saturn. Photo: nasa.gov
Saturn. Photo: nasa.gov

I’ll never forget that moment as I realized how beautiful and magnificent the planets looked through the lens live and in-person.

We also viewed a deep blue collapsed star through the telescopes and learned all about the death of stars.  Seeing the Moon close-up revealed pits and pockets I’d never known were there.

As we looked up the Milky Way appeared across the sky, although we had to look just above or beyond it to get the full effect of billions and billions of stars.

My last really great uranoscopy experience was in Nebraska.  We were traveling along I40 late at night and just had to stop to watch the sky for a while.  We pulled off the interstate onto a little dirt road joined by jack rabbits who staring at us as we passed them.  After our eyes became accustomed to the night, the Milky Way appeared again – just as before in that little field outside of Visalia.  The Big Dipper emerged among the other stars with its familiar dot-to-dot pattern in the sky.  Since we were so far north, the bottom of the dipper seemed to sit on the horizon unlike its inverted position we normally see in central California.

Milky Way. Photo: nasa.gov
Milky Way. Photo: nasa.gov

Even though I live in a city with too much light to really view the night sky properly, I always look up as much as possible.  One of my favorite apps for my phone is the Google Sky Map.  When I spot something I want to identify I hold my phone up and the app will tell me what I’m looking at, whether it’s a planet or constellation.

Although it’s not as fancy or magnifying as the telescopes at the observatory, at least it allows me to learn more about what I’m seeing.  It feeds my uranoscopy appetite and brings me close to whatever the sky chooses to reveal on that particular night.

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