In the Company of Strangers
Andrea’s gift of striking up a conversation led to the discovery that tonight was the open house for the local brand of the Royal Astronomy Society of Canada. I’ve been a space nerd since the moment I saw Star Trek in theatre in the 1979. Joining the club seemed like a no-brainer and I’d researched it, before my border crossing nightmare last year and had slipped my mind since returning last November.
I’m a bad space nerd. I mean, I had some idea of what to expect but this is rural southwest Ontario. I was pleased to find a very busy clearing less than 10 minutes drive away. Several freestanding telescopes were setup for everyone’s use as well as a 10×20′ building with attached observatory, surrounded by a 14×30′ observing deck.
I, being unprepared for nature, was eaten alive by a metric fuckton (yes, that’s a scientific term; I looked it up) of mosquitos. They kind of ignored me after my arms and face were slathered with bug guts, and very likely some of my own blood.
I can be a little introverted, but I made my way around and met a few folks while peeping through the keyhole. The quarter moon obscured the viewing a little bit, although looking at its surface magnified, especially the detail along the terminator line, was magnificent. The dome of the observatory is motorized and whizzed and whirred, and I saw Saturn and its rings. The image was tiny, white and slightly blurred but clearly identifiable. Outside, I saw four satellites passing overhead and a shooting star. Marvelous, really.
I ended up being the last non-club member there, mostly listening to the conversation. I got a nice little primer on astrophotography, something I’ve been interested in for a while, and some pointers on what would make a good first telescope to buy.
I can see this having the potential of being an expensive hobby, but joining the club includes access to the observatory and a few other telescopes. The grounds are open year-round and only a few minutes from where Andrea works. On nights that I take her to work, I can get my writing in and swing by for some stargazing or make a night out of it and do some photography.
There’s also a camaraderie, sitting in the dark and talking about the shared wonder of the space. I do think I’ll be back, often.