Saturday, April 01, 2023

Paper Moon

Editor | February 8, 2023 9:00 AM

So back when I was 12 or so my grandfather bought me a telescope and unleashed me into the backyard to look at the stars.

We lived in the country and the skies were like ink, so there were plenty of stars to look at. But when I look at stars through a telescope I can only think of one thing: Golf.

Because stars look like golf balls.

“It’s a clear night,” my grandfather would say. “You should be out looking at the stars.”

“Ah, they all look like golf balls,” I said. “Golf balls? What the hell are you talking about?”

Many of the conversations I had with my grandfather ended with the phrase, “What the hell are you talking about?” or “What the hell do you know about it? You’re hear to learn.”

Thing is, he was almost always right.

I didn’t mind looking at the moon, and the telescope came with a filter so you could also look safely at the sun, but stars? Nope, Stars weren’t for me.

I think my grandfather expected me to be the next Copernicus. I ended up a middling English major and perhaps, the world’s worst astronomer.

So the other night me and the boy were standing on the ice on Lake McDonald waiting for that comet to show up.

It was a Thursday and the Washington Post had a story that said the comet would be in the northern sky below the north star. At least that’s what I thought the story said.

The comet was only supposed to be around for a couple of days, as it whizzed close to the Earth and then shot back out into

space. By “close” I mean 28 million miles away. What’s a million miles to space, anyway?

Officially the comet was called Comet C/2022 E3. It was last seen some 50,000 years ago, the story said. Unique, because it was green. They warned that it would be best visible with binoculars or a telescope on a clear moonless night.

I’m not sure if the folks who wrote the story looked at the moon charts, because the moon was up and big and bright.

As for the clouds, it was fairly clear, but there were a few clouds, too, especially over the mountains.

Still, my hope was that if I took enough photos I’d capture the comet as it moved across the sky.

But one thing led to another and I got distracted by the moon, which had a cool halo around it and the next thing I know I turned the camera in pretty much the opposite direction it needed to be in to have any shot of seeing the comet and took a few pics of the moon and then skedaddled out of there.

The clouds were getting thicker, not thinner, anyway.

The moon was nice, though. I like the moon. It’s one of those celestial bodies you can’t count on, not some comet that only comes to visit every 50,000 years.

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