Carl SaganI was introduced to the works of Carl Sagan by my father. My father was a quiet man who worked hard supporting our family. Somehow he found the time to do some of the things he loved: photography, sailing, gardening and astronomy. One evening I found him standing alone in the backyard looking up. He was waiting for the Soyuz-Apollo capsule to sail past. When it came over I just stared at it trying to wrap my brain around what I was seeing. I could feel his excitement as he pointed to the moving dot of light.

I get that sense of satisfaction from him. I often find myself alone looking for the ISS or an Iridium flare. When I spot my target, well it just makes me feel like I’m a part of something much bigger. Sometimes I feel as though I’m a part of the Cosmos itself.

I remember my dad watching the Cosmos series on TV so for his birthday I really wanted to buy him the series on VHS, but could only afford one tape. I still have that tape, even though the technology to play it has gone by the wayside. I keep it to remind me of dad and his passion for the night sky.

That’s why I’m so excited about the new Cosmos series starting on March 9th on Fox. The new host Neil deGrasse Tyson is the director of the Hayden Planetarium. According to an article in The New Yorker, he was “summoned to Cornell University by Carl Sagan”. What must that have been like?

The AstroBabes will  be hosting a premier party on March 9th, with dinner and a reception to follow. Well –  Lynn and I will probably go get some Chinese food and drink chocolate wine from plastic cups, but we will be watching! Why don’t you host a party of your own and let us know what you think of the new Cosmos!


Getting Away From it All

Overlooking Wittman Field.

I’ve been on a hiatus of sorts, off on one of my consulting assignments. I spent six weeks in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, writing about buying steel for military vehicles and ordering chassis’s to build fire trucks.

The upside was that I made some cash, met a bunch of great people, and had a mini-vacation. The downside was that my laptop totally died the day before I hit the road so blogging became impossible. While I was there, we also had 34 consecutive days with below zero temperatures. Even if I had my scope or my binoculars with me, I would’ve been too wimpy to do any serious observing.

I arrived in Oshkosh late Sunday, January 5, and spent the evening getting ready for my first day on the job. While I was unpacking Sunday night, I discovered that right out the side door of the hotel was the expanse of Wittman Field, home of the EAA. Turns out there is only three blocks of houses beyond the end of the runway before the horizon drops off into Lake Winnebago in the East-Southeastern sky, and although it was cloudy that first night, I knew I might get to see some stars on clear mornings and nights.

orionI woke up early the next morning and stepped out the side door of the hotel. The first thing that took my breath away was the frigid -17°F air. But the second thing that took my breath away was the black, pre-dawn sky. As focused as I was about getting to work on time, I lingered long enough to take it all in.

There, twinkling in the frigid sky, was Orion, standing tall with his belt only about 40 degrees off the treeless horizon. Betelgeuse, Rigel, Sirius and Procyon formed their own mini-Great Square below him. The night sky always seems so much more clear and beautiful when it’s really cold outside.

Every cloudless morning after that I was greeted by Orion, and over time watched him slowly march around the corner of the hotel. By the time I stepped out into the -6°F morning for the last time five weeks later, Orion had moved to the near Southern sky and his belt had risen to 50 degrees.

Orion’s been my hero for a long time, and I’m glad he was there to greet me at the beginning of every (clear!) day.

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