James Paulson's roll off roof observatory at the Sunridge Observatory site, taken in the summer of 1986, housing a 10 inch f/5 Cave Astrola Newtonian reflector telescope

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why We Observe

Have you ever wondered what drives someone to get up in the middle of the night and pack a telescope outside to be alone and look up at the stars?

Think about this. Ever since the beginning of time, mankind has been looking at the stars. In the past, they became the centers of great tales of folklore. Mankind has always dreamed of what answers they may hold.

Today our view of the heavens is diminishing rapidly. Not so long ago, and even in America, people could step outside into their backyards and look up on a summers eve and see the band that we call the Milky Way galaxy. On the astronomical time scale, 50 years is insignificant.

Yet it is this same diminishing view that drives those of us who do this hobby, to seek that time alone, when we sync with all that is out there, and inhale photons from a time long before the arrival of man on this planet, even before this solar system began. We are driven to photograph and observe and share the experience with others, to wonder aloud of all the promises that space holds for us as a species, and just for one brief shining moment to forget all our earthly concerns and realize in some small way how insignificant we truly are. We are tour guides of this amazing place we call the cosmos. We use our tools to learn and share. It is our nature. We differ very little from the warrior hunters of the past who looked up and saw virtually the same things we are looking at tonight, for in the cosmos, mans place is almost non-existent.

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