Observational Astronomy

Getting Away From it All

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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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