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The frightened Astronomer?

Discussion in 'General Astronomy Chat' started by squeege3000, Aug 20, 2019.

The frightened Astronomer?

Started by squeege3000 on Aug 20, 2019 at 7:43 PM

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  1. squeege3000

    squeege3000 Well-Known Member

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    The most alarming experience ever at a telescope for me happened about 20 years ago. I was eager to try out all of the dark spots in my area, looking for the perfect mixture of clear horizon, dark sky, and easy access. This story is about one of those nights!


    My son, Dylan, was about 5 years old about this time, and I would take him to the local landfill and watch the heavy machinery push, twist and roll junk around. He loved watching. I noticed that there was a bit of open land near the ever growing mountain of junk, and decided to check it out one night with my telescope.


    So one evening I parked on the side of the now desolate access road to the landfill, just outside the locked gates, and carried my equipment up a gentle upward path into a field of very short pine trees. They were like5 ft tall, apparently the aftermath of a fire or maybe some bulldozing done a few years earlier. Anyway, it was perfect spot to set up my 8 inch Orion Newtonian on the Astroview tracking mount. I had an aluminum case with eyepieces and maps with me. The terrain was kind of angled, but the telescope was set up nice and level. I set the Aluminum dimple covered case next to the telescope mount, opened it and took out several eyepieces. I then shut the case and set the eyepieces on top of the case. Then came the darkness.


    The night was perfect! All of the summer objects were visible, and some of them I had never seen before. It was an amazing experience. I could hear animals crying and yelping in the background, but I was too immersed in astronomy to even think about how dangerous it could be, alone just outside an animal infested landfill. No fear at all. Until......


    It was probably around 10:30pm, and I was performing the tried and true exercise of starting with low power eyepieces, working towards ever powerful ones as I had done so many times before. I don't remember the DSO that I was looking at, but I had just plucked out the 25mm eyepiece, set it on the top of the aluminum case, and selected the 15mm to get an even closer look at the object when the sound I heard made my hair stand on end!


    Now it was very dark, in fact as dark as I've ever experienced, what with the 5 ft pine trees blocking any stray light that would have reached me from far away homes or streets. It was almost pitch black, and the eeire darkness every bit amplified the slow deliberate snarling growl that I heard, and right at my feet it sounded. I was paralyzed with terror, struggling to understand what was so close to me, with such a deep tiger like growl! It was a singular growl, and it’s pace suddenly quickened, like the beast was about to pounce. Suddenly it stopped, and then the thud of a small object impacting the ground was produced!


    Figure it out? My 25mm eyepiece began sliding down the dimpled aluminum case, making the growling sound that was amplified by the hollow body. The instant I realized what it was a wave of relief washed across my entire body. My fists unclenched. What an adrenaline trip!


    I’ve been to many other dark sites alone, but the love of astronomy overpowers my fear and even fades my good sense not to be alone in isolated places. Now I pretty much observe in my back yard, but with acres of woods just yards away that too could be a dangerous place, and yet I’m oblivious to the possible dangers. The cartoon below was created by STARTOONS and pretty much describes the dedicated astronomer!

    astronomy scared dark.jpg
     
    StaringAtStars and Ed D like this.

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