It only took a couple days for me to feel a need to add a little more to our ACME2024 journal. A quiet theme that came up time and time again with our field trips can be summarized as, “Back in the good ole’ days of astronomy!” Many of these moments were marked with phrases such as:
- We can do that with computers now.
- Astronomers don’t need to go to the telescope anymore because of automation.
- Someone can get into the professional field of astronomy having had little time observing the night sky through tradition stargazing.
Now, as a hobby astronomer, I can see the benefit of astronomy that can be done from the computer. My parishioners in Wisconsin gave me a great deal of grief when I shared with them that I would be in Arizona for one of the coldest weeks of Wisconsin’s winter thus far. If I were back in Wisconsin, I would be finding ways to do astronomy from my computer so I wouldn’t need to endure subzero temperatures. From that standpoint, I happily embrace computer and automated astronomy.
Another obvious situation is the use of space telescopes like the Hubble and James Webb. Having these amazing tools in space has revolutionized not only the field of astronomy, but also our knowledge of the universe. Space telescopes obviously make it impossible to do astronomy from anywhere other than a computer.
Still, there seems to be something out of sorts with doing astronomy in a way that completely removes an encounter with the night sky. In many ways, the night sky should be viewed with the same cultural reverence we give our national parks. The night sky is one of creations wonders that we need to protect so generations can gaze in wonder at our universal home. Maybe it’s just because I turned 50, but we need to hear the “back in the good ole’ days of astronomy” stories. Many of these stories revolve around being out with a telescope both observing and spending time with likeminded friends.
Below is one of those “back in the good ole’ days of astronomy” stories from Br. Guy. Enjoy and, if you are blessed with clear skies this week, get out and encounter the awe and wonder of creation. Spend some time creating your own story of the night sky.