I was quite fortunate to have teachers throughout my schooling that had a passion to do more than teach, but actually get their students excited about what they could do with their knowledge.
With the recent onset of fall, I reflect back on my grade school days and remember eagerly waiting in class on Fridays for the ever-elusive weekend. One such day found me in a certain 6th grade science class thinking about what Saturday and Sunday held in store. As the bell rang releasing us from the clutches of our textbooks one autumn Friday, our teacher reminded us that during that evening’s football game, one of the high school science teachers would have a telescope set up on the hill beside the stadium — and here’s the catch — we’d get bonus points if we visited him.
I made a mental note and put it out of my mind.
Later that evening as I was with friends beneath the stadium lights, one friend suggested we take a quick break from watching the game to go see that high school teacher on the nearby hill.
Our youthful energy kicked in and we were off.
There on the hillside, we found a crowd of students taking turns looking through a large telescope pointed at a small speck of light in the sky. When it was my turn, I was amazed to find myself looking at Mars, even able to glimpse the planet’s ice caps. Very cool.
Fast forward several years and I found myself just the other night looking up at the night sky realizing how long it had been since I’ve stepped away from the bright lights to lose myself in the brilliance of God’s creation.
It’s a shame we don’t stare up at the night sky more often. Many people may use the excuse of not having a telescope, but there are plenty of options to stand in the wonder of the creation above us with simply our bare eyes.
If you want to step outside more during some crisp evenings this fall, here are some tips:
Above us 24/7 is a wonderful thing called the International Space Station — and we can actually see it with our bare eyes. Through NASA’s website at www.spotthestation.nasa.gov/sightings/, simply enter your country, region, and nearby city to find when you can “Spot the Station.” The space station is visible for at least a 50 mile (80 km) radius around each of the listed locations. From there, find one of the listed viewing times. Fun fact: The space station is technically always falling to the ground. The only thing keeping it high above us its speed across the globe, which allows it to keep “falling away” from the earth.
It also so happens that the night skies have a packed schedule this fall with a number of notable meteor showers to enjoy. On Oct. 21, immediately before the dawn, the Orionid meteor shower. According to earthsky.org, This year, 2016, presents a less than optimal year for watching the Orionid meteor shower. The best viewing for the Orionids will probably be before dawn on Oct. 22, though in the glare of the waning gibbous moon.
The night of Nov. 4, will offer views of the South Taurids.
Earthsky.org tells us in 2016, the waxing crescent moon will set in the evening early, providing dark skies for this year’s South Taurid meteor shower. The South Taurids should produce their greatest number of meteors shortly after midnight on Nov. 5. Remember, it’ll be possible to catch a fireball or two!
Late night Nov. 11 into the early morning hours of Nov. 12, stargazers will be able to see the North Taurids. Typically, maximum numbers can be seen around midnight.
Then rounding out the November meteor showers is the Leonids, a meteor shower known to produce some of the greatest spectacles in history. The show varies year to year and it was known for its best year in 1966.
In 2016, the Leonids are expected to fall most abundantly before dawn Nov. 17, though under the bright light of waning gibbous moon.
Get out there and enjoy our night skies. Don’t let them go to waste.