Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kitt Peak National Observatory

Have I mentioned that Craig really likes surprises?  And adventures?  And taking us to see and do things that we would never choose on our own.  I think that must be some kind of spiritual gift, to be blessed with the ability to see beyond what you've already done and have the desire to try it anyway.  I did not come with that gift.  But in the 20+ years that I have lived with this man, I have come to admire and respect it in him.  

This was the first of our surprises on our most recent Spring Break adventure to Arizona last week...

...and what a spectacular adventure it was!   

It took us 40 minutes to drive from our hotel in Tucson to the Tahono O'odham Indian Reservation.  From there we drove up a 7 mile winding road to the top of a mountain overlooking half of Arizona.  (6750 ft in elevation...eep!)  Megan and I made Craig stop every 100 yards or so to let us take pictures of the view, so it took us awhile to get to the top.  Our group of 50 people was scheduled for a 5:00pm nighttime observation, and we arrived at 4:59.  Why be early, when you can take a million pictures along the way and still get there right on time?

It was considerably colder at the top of the peak than it had been in Tucson, so after some instructions from the three astronomy students/presenters, we layered on some additional clothing (thankfully a Scoutmaster planned this trip) and ventured onto the patio of the observatory where they fed us a cute little dinner (sandwiches, granola bars, dried fruit, apples, you know...scientist food.)  With a little bit of daylight remaining, we toured around the telescope buildings and listened to some very technical explanations of the functions of each of the 25 operating telescopes on site.  Pretty amazing, actually.  But shortly after the walking presentation started, I got a little distracted by the sunset happening in the distance, and I stopped listening to the science-y stuff.  

After it got completely dark, we split into two smaller groups and a few of us went outside to identify constellations and planets.  I happen to love stars and constellations.  And as I looked up into that gorgeous, clear sky, all of my (limited) 8th grade astronomy knowledge came flooding back into my mind, and I loved it all over again.  It's truly remarkable how much you can see on a clear night from a 7000 ft peak in the middle of the desert.  We went back inside for a brief lesson on stargazing with binoculars, and 20 minutes later we walked back outside, only to see TWICE as many stars!   Absolutely amazing!  

I'm sorry I have no pictures of the stars.  Even if I had had the capability to take any that night, I'm sure I could not have focused my attention on anything other than just looking up at the sky.  But, if you close your eyes and picture the clearest, most star-filled sky you've ever seen and then triple it...it might be close to what we saw.  

I was overwhelmed by a few things on this adventure:

1.  That people all over the world were seeing the very same stars we were seeing (well, you know, not all at the same time. but eventually...as we all make our way through the seasons and that rotation thing that the earth does...) and that they have for hundreds and hundreds of years.  

2.  That the earth and all of us on it are so VERY VERY small in relation to the entire universe. 

3.  And light years...I still don't really get that whole distance measured in time thing.  

We ended our night at the giant telescope. And I was amazed once again at all that we had missed when we used just our eyes or just the binoculars.  There is SO much beyond what we can see on our own.

Four hours later, we made our way down the mountain in the dark, tired and cold, but completely uplifted and exhilarated by the whole experience.  The kids said this was 2nd only to the cruise on their list of memorable trips.  

I am so grateful for opportunities to travel, for a husband who insists on taking us with him to explore the world, and for such awesome things to experience in mortality.  

I love the earth.  And I love space.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful adventure! I always love seeing your pretty photos... even if you did not get any of the stars!