Clear skies

Venus in the Pleiades in April 2020 (Image Credit: Fred Espenak, Bifrost Astronomical Observatory)
When I was a young, the population of Colorado was only about 3 million people, a little over half of the state’s population today. And when I was young, my dad would pull my sister and I, and later me alone, out of bed to look through his telescope at the stars, planets, and the Moon. We lived far enough from the nearest city that we got some amazing stargazing while it lasted

I won’t speak for my sister, but I loved it when I was a kid, gradually resented it as a teen, and eventually he stopped asking if I wanted to look through his telescope.

I have two kids of my own now, both of whom are in high school, and neither of whom have ever seemed to be the stargazing types like I had been. But with a stay-at-home order in Colorado, the amount of pollution in the air – and thus the amount of light pollution from the Denver metro area – has dropped significantly. As a result, I’ve noticed just how much clearer the skies are during the day, and during the night.

Tonight I asked the kids if they wanted to join me when I went outside to look at the stars, and they were both excited to do so.

I totally misidentified several stars that I used to know by heart and I realized just how crappy my eyesight has become even with glasses on, but we were able to see a couple of constellations that were usually hard to see. And we identified one cluster of stars I always used to look for and that had, until very recently, been too dim to shine through the light pollution – the Pleiades.

I have a small refractive telescope in the basement that I got as a 15 year anniversary gift from my employer. I think it’s time to pull it out, set it up on the front driveway where I have more sky to choose from, and start looking at the sky again, before the economy starts back up the stars disappear once more behind a screen of lit haze.

If you have the opportunity, especially if you can get away from city lights, I highly recommend you head out and look at the stars.

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