The Telescope One crisp November night, no moon, no cloud, no breeze, well, a slight chill in the air, high above our house in Pleasantville, New York, well away I once again focused my telescope on the star Deneb in the constellation Cygnus, The Swan. It rested high in the northwest sky, my favorite starting place for randomly wandering the late autumn heavens. On this night, in the exceptionally crystal-clear cold air I knew as never before that I was not only viewing, but totally experiencing and taking part in an event that was taking place a long time ago. The pulsating light waves reaching my eye had left the star many thousands of years earlier, billions of miles away. It brought to mind how cartoonists humorously portray arrows going from an observer’s eyes to the object being seen. And so I was projecting myself through all the intervening space-time to share an event that happened so many eons past, bathing in energy ejected well before our civilization existed. And I was a participant as real as the photons, which were now reaching my retina. I was indeed at that moment sharing with Deneb the universe which existed eons past. Walt Whitman wrote: When I heard the learn’d astronomer, When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them, When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture room, How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick, Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars. Whitman’s poem might be interpreted as implying a spiritual superiority in just looking at the stars over the gathering of knowledge about them. But it is only when one knows what is known and can intelligently speculate on what is yet to be learned that the vastness and awesome nature of the heavens can be fully experienced. To look at the night sky with any sensitivity is its own reward, but to view a star armed with sufficient knowledge to truly realize its, (and our place in time and space) calls up feelings that go far beyond just the viewing. And the greater the knowledge, the more profound the experience.

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 astronomer,constellation,Cygnus,Deneb,light-waves,night sky,photons
  Pleasantville, NY
Feb 25 2024

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