When with a telescope or naked eye we can see what early astronomers saw hundred years ago and before them ancestors living in caves, when we can see the same vault full of stars then this is perhaps why the cosmos feels like an old friend, someone to talk to, to look forward to, to hope for, to wait for.
That time of the year has come again, with with the same excitement and sense of awe: the Perseids night. It can make one feel temporarily timeless, the long wait so worthy it, like a favourite trip to enchanting places.
Each of the 4×4 pick-up trucks carry three to four people on a narrow road, very much streeped down to a steep stony path, which leads to the mountain top stage site. On the way up it’s a pleasure to watch the lush vegetation showered in the light of the afternoon sun: ancient oak trees, holmes, cherry and pear trees, huge wild pickle berry plants, and other native spieces create an inviting echo-system, a pristine hall to the massive mountain crown.
By the time the last translation is completed the first ones arrived enjoy a stunning, red sun setting behind the lower mountain tops. The last birds dance their way into the silhouettes of tall and bushy trees, tiny unharmful bugs and ants on a dusty ground are dodging away from big feet moving around in search of the perfect, smooth stone: for that night each one in the audience will have their throne in an open-air theatre that nature has provided and shaped through millenias of changes.
In a perfect still air, welcomed by a still sighting audience… shhh…can you hear something? Of course not, planets and stars make their entrance unseen one moment and shine bright right there the next one, giving the impression that they are there for your eyes only. Venus appears on the horizon: the show may now begin.
The top round stage faces the valleys below, and dressed up for the event it hosts astronomers instrumentation and telescopes. For the special occasion teams of dedicated members share their passion and academic background with curious eyes and minds of three generations who have all gathered in one place for nature’s big show: children and parents, grand-parents and grand-grand parents, each one with their fantasies and stories studied in books, learned from professionals and first-hand experience.
Time lapses into the evening. For the rule that white conceals and black reveals, there it is, in all its majesty and beauty: the sky is now full of stars. Enthusiasm and knowledge glow: the first bright celestial lights are now moving in the sky, a thin tale of cosmic gases along the nadir line. For a moment the thought of the energy taken to reach for the stars, when fireworks or volcanoes firey explotions meet the sky at the zenith, and humankind resolute and keen on designing the future of space exploration, in such moments of reflection there truly is an unequalled magnificence in the sensation of being embraced by a magnanimous force of nature flying from the sky down to earth. An old saying reads that once we are touched by it, some of its force passes on to us and will live in us until the next meeting.
To indicate stars and their alignments in the night vault inspiring astronomy enthusiasts point lasers with green and red light: they point at South South-East and draw the direction of a special star that is about to appear. Suddenly the International Space Station is visible above our heads, the six humans living inside it feel closer while flying in from the west, crossing the stars path, and for some induced visual effect they seem to slow down before our eyes. The astronauts’ presence is definitely the highlight of dear images that stay with us until the next time.
Time to set up tables on the natural terrace, and enjoy creativity and skills with ingredients and flavors: funnily enough all around the world, friendship love and life are still associated with music and food and stories.
Eyes in the telescopes programmed and connected to computerized systems and electronic sky charts. The sky is clearer when an expert voice and hand help to see the sites and directions of celestial objects predicting their evolving nature and mutations in deep space. Magically echoing in the air are info gems, enthusiasm and knowledge: even the familiar celestial objects we know from chilhood seem to look clearer and brighter.
Suddenly the environment is one discreet canvas, the sky a favorite large 3d vision screen and, as if transported into another dimension, a new sensation sets in: for some of us it’s meeting the stars that we honor night after night, in a relaxed atmosphere, away from the rest and unseen to the most. Gazing at the stars looking at us is an ancestral experience, they know things about us we are unaware of, yet how humbling and gratifying it is to recognize each others in those moments, like lingering memoires awaiting to be lived again.
Like a well oiled mechanism in a wheel, under the courteous astronomers and astrophysicists’ supervision we move clockwise from one telescope to the other: each of the telescopes has been set to spot a specific part of the night dome. Cluster with millions of stars, Sombrero galaxy with its relatively high brightness magnitude and at a distance of 28 million light-years from Earth, Saturn approximately 746 million miles, the Moon with an avarage distance of 238,855 miles, spinning Spirals, the Milky Way, Mars at 46.8 million miles from Earth on May 2016. Getting to know the sky in simple, easy but memorable ways thanks to inspiring people passionate about space, makes the time rich of new meanings and new things to look forward to.