I’m one of those people who read the first few chapters of the Observer’s Book of Astronomy as a child and was immediately hooked…. for a few days at least. The very idea that the sun was 93 million miles away gripped me, and when I began to understand what a light year was and how very, very far away was our nearest star (after the sun), I felt humbled and broadened at the same time. Learning about astronomy made me feel more alive. And very inspired. But as a child, the interest didn’t last, and other passions have come and gone since then.
But I recently renewed my interest in things cosmological after building a cardboard orrery (another story). This time there is plenty to feed my newly re-awakened interest: I have books about astronomy, apps for the iPad, unpolluted countryside skies, and, most importantly, I have a telescope. Will things be different this time?
Last month, armed with star charts and a few quickly memorised constellations, I eagerly awaited the arrival of 2012 DA14, an asteroid due to fly by earth at the spine-tinglingly close distance of about 17,000 miles. I had learned to spot Ursa Minor and Ursa Major, and I’d read all about locking the telescope onto a nearby star and then waiting. I was ready to have a go at spotting this historic asteroid flyby, my first astronomical event. But I was thwarted by the complete cover of clouds we get here in Britain, darn it. So I watched it on NASA TV instead. Hey ho!
At least there was Comet Pan-Starrs coming along in March. Apparently, it has been possible to see it here in the northern hemisphere since last Thursday. It’s now Sunday and the clouds haven’t lifted. There have been evenings with so much fog I couldn’t even see the garden shed, let alone a comet. Ho hum. There are always back episodes of Stargazing LIVE to watch.
But I know myself. I need more encouragement than this. Will my desire to be broadened and deepened by contemplation of the universe be squashed once again, defeated by our British weather?