Thursday, August 27, 2009

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

About 30 miles into the desert east of Bend sitting on top of a mountain you'll find the Pine Mountain Observatory. Operated and maintained by the University of Oregon the three massive telescopes are capable of peering deep into our universe. On weekends, the public is allowed to visit, camp out on the mountain, attend a lecture and look through the telescopes. Even without the telescopes the sky is blanketed with more stars than most people will ever see. It's exactly the kind of experience that can truly expand anyone's intellectual curiosity. Or so I thought.

The lecture was held in a tent and was moderated by an astronomer and volunteer at the observatory who obviously loves his field and had put a tremendous amount of time into preparing a show that would be stimulating, entertaining and educational. After the lecture we headed up to the telescopes. On the way up the hill, our astronomer stopped and directed everyone's attention up to the magnificent star filled sky. To help us locate points in the sky he was explaining he used a green laser pen he had in his pocket that we were able to follow to exact points in the sky. When he was done pouring his heart out about the wonders and expanse of the universe he asked if there were any questions.

The lady next to me: "Wow. That laser is really cool"
Our intrepid teacher: "Thanks"
Lady: "So how does it work?"
Teacher: "I don't really want to get side tracked about the laser right now. Any questions about the lecture?"
Lady: "Yeah, where did you get the laser?"
Teacher: "I really would like to stay on track here."
Lady: "Sorry...But it really is cool."
Teacher: "If you all look up this way you'll see Polaris. Who knows what other name Polaris goes by?"
Lady: "Do you sell those lasers in the gift shop?"
Teacher: "No. We don't sell them in the gift shop."
Lady: "Can I get one online?"
Teacher: "I don't know."
Lady: "Really. You don't know. I thought you were an expert. You can get almost anything online."

Eventually we got to one of the huge telescopes. This thing had to be about 20' long and 4' in diameter and must have cost millions of dollars. We were waiting in line to take a look and, naturally, it was very dark. The person operating the telescope introduced himself and explained how the telescope worked and told us we were especially lucky to be there that evening because Jupiter was visible and we would be able to see not only some of its moons but also its rings. An incredibly rare opportunity. "Any questions before we get started?" he asked.

From the pitch black darkness beside me. "Yeah. Do you know where to get one of those lasers? The other guy didn't know. They're really cool."

Just kill me now.

2 comments:

  1. That was awesome! Please write a TV show script. PLEASE

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  2. check out my iphone/ipad app that teaches how to play this song on piano …
    Its all for a good cause!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVD5uia6RKs
    http://www.appsforhunger.com

    ReplyDelete