Mom and Dad knew I liked science and astronomy. They gave me a telescope in the early 1960s as I finished junior high school. Years before they got me a microscope to view the tiny world of inner space. This gift allowed me to see the world of outer space. I loved that telescope.
I went to the garage cabinet the other day and got out that old telescope and tripod. It’s an old friend. Together, we have viewed the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, Earth’s Moon, comets, the Orion nebula, and much more. I have a bigger and better telescope now. But, this one is special.
Recently, I read the opinion piece at the end of the February 2016 Sky & Telescope magazine. It was written by Dean Regas and entitled Saturn Changes You. Dean is the outreach astronomer at the Cincinnati Observatory and co-host of the nationally syndicated program Star Gazers.
He described the sense of awe and inspiration he felt at seeing Saturn for the first time through a telescope. It was a moving and powerful experience for him. My wife Melanie, our grandkids, and many others, marveled at seeing Saturn for the first time through my telescopes. It is a thrill to see the small sphere with those outstretched rings. Something about it changes your worldview as Regas said in his article.
I wrote to Dean and expressed my appreciation for his story in the magazine. He wrote back and said:
Thank you for the email and I’m so happy that the article took you back to that first views (and that old telescope). That was my intention and I’m hoping we can share those experiences with the next generation. It’s almost Saturn season!
My first view of Saturn looked like this. It was tiny, just big enough to make out the gap between the rings and the planet sphere. My view was probably not quite this sharp or clear. But, I didn’t care. I saw Saturn! It became my favorite planet.
Recently, I noticed a news story about a youngster aged 15 who also saw Saturn through his telescope. Marcus Reed of Seaford, East Sussex, England looked through his telescope, about twice the size of mine. Plus, Marcus had a tool I didn’t have available 55 years ago. He put his cell phone to the eyepiece and captured this beautiful large image of Saturn.
“I took the picture at about four in the morning. I had turned on the app and saw that Saturn was visible, so straight away I put my slippers on and ran downstairs, setting up my telescope on the back lawn in my pyjamas. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked back and saw I had such a clear picture – Saturn is my favourite planet.”