I’ve always stared at the sky, partly because I’ve been lucky enough to live in places where you can actually see it, and partly because despite being a writer, I’m actually an outdoorsy sort of a person.
However, I’m fairly ignorant about the things I see up there.
For example, until June last year, the only thing I’d ever seen through a telescope was the moon, and a blobby thing that my dad assured me was Halley’s comet.
But in June, everything changed.
We were staying in Cheltenham, for the Cheltenham Science Festival, and it said in the programme that some members of the local astronomical society would be available with their telescopes after 9.00 pm.
So we wandered along rather late at about 11pm, to find only a single man, waiting at bus stop, next to him an enormous telescope carefully stowed away in a huge case.
We chatted, and within a few minutes, he’d kindly reassembled the telescope, cleared it with the delightful and extremely sky savvy security guards, and was pointing it at the stars.
“Take a look,” he said “there’s Saturn.”
I looked, expecting to see a tiny silver dot – but there was Saturn, just like a cartoon, an absolutely beautiful silver ball with a perfectly clear ring around the middle. Exactly like this:
I was amazed.
I went on being amazed for several days.
I’m now saving up for a telescope.
I still won’t know what I’m looking at, but at least it’ll be closer.