Journey of Self Discovery

 Aug 2010

What’s it all about, Alfie?  Where are you going, Billie?
I am at the age where most people start paying more attention to life’s more serious issues. Those with faith issues revert to “Never on a Sunday”, pursue all kinds of weird religions or join a church choir if the issue is not that great. Those with health issues join gyms, Arthur Murray, do the Camino de Santiago and then need knee replacements afterwards or buy exercise bikes to use in the comfort of their own homes.Many who ask the really big questions try to find the answer in all the above mentioned plus try tricky love affairs, get divorced or remarry but all to no avail and become depressed.
Will we ever know where we have come from and where we are going?
By doing Astronomy , I have embarked on an amazing journey of self discovery. I often dreamed of far away places and suffered jet lag to fulfill some of those dreams.
A few years ago I started dreaming of seriously far away places – places even further than the Moon. One evening I took my binoculars, which I had always only used during the day, and looked up at the Milky Way. I should have found a more practical way to observe the magnificent sight. Lying back on a recliner or folded blanket instead of arching my neck all night would have prevented a seriously stiff neck the following morning but all was worthwhile.
I was hooked  and got my first 4 inch Newtonian telescope. I sought out the brightest stars and hey! I found a really big one with  two little stars on either side of it – all lined up in  neat row.  I was looking at Jupiter and could actually see horizontal bands across the planet.The little stars on either side were four of Jupiter’s moons. I was looking at a place about 778,570,000km away, experiencing heart palpitations but no jet lag!
Soon I realized that I would need a more sophisticated vehicle. I desperately needed to travel even further. I needed to reach the Hollywood of the Universe 1500 light years away called M42, a birthplace of stars in a very huge cloud of extremely hot gas and dust particles.My Bushnell 8 inch Dobsonian took me there on 16 March 2007 and ever since the two of us have been exploring the night skies. To really appreciate what I was witnessing, I took to sketching the objects which I feel deserve this extra effort instead of just jotting down a bunch of facts or clicking a camera shutter. Nellie has a big sister now, a 12 inch Dobsonian named Stella.
Sometimes I feel the necessity to put my Astronomy observations and sketches to the test and submit my work for scrutiny by experts. Receiving my first merit certificate was fantastic and cause for excited celebration.
Being part of an Astronomy group provides a lot of fun. The camaraderie is great and the friendships are precious. Introducing people to the night sky and sharing my enthusiasm also gives me great satisfaction but most of all I cherish the hours I spend alone with my telescope under a star filled sky, far away from city lights.This is when I get to know myself best, where I come from and where I am going.

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