As I commit this black font to white screen, it’s been approximately 36 hours since my reluctantly “returning” to Earth. Much transpired leading up to, during and since my “journey” and… via the following account… I now begin to relive my “travels” thru space/time.
Once again, I find myself venturing forth into out-of-doors overnight… the wee hours of Saturday, July 28th… experiencing the sensation of being enshrouded by the unseasonably chilly air…12.8ºC / 55ºF [Note to self… next time don both jacket and dew resistant footwear].
My 2 orbs panning, upward, across the 2 a.m. heavens, I find 2 orbs instantly, intently, “staring” back at me… our dazzling, milk-white, Full Moon and, not far beneath it, its celestial BFF… the vividly reddish-orange, planet Mars… scant days away from its closest encounter with Earth since August 27, 2003. For a moment I chuckle… might Mars’ orb / eye be deemed bloodshot?
My thoughts now dismiss the frivolous / focus upon the factual. I mentally note, crunch and compare the specific orbital data of each new millennial, Mars/Earth rendezvous… 2003’s distance apart had been 55.8 million km / 34.6 million mi compared to the here and now’s projected 57.6 million km / 35.8 million mi.
My naked eye observations of these spherical apparitions have instantaneously prompted my I’ve-Gotta-Get-A-Closer-Look reaction. Rushing back inside, within mere minutes I’m lugging out and setting up my 90mm refractor telescope / tripod and transforming my home-turf into an open air, backyard observatory.
Regrettably, proximity, alone, is no guarantee of ideal seeing conditions… especially when peering at dinky Mars through such a small, low tech scope. The other factors in play will be  Earth’s rotation, which… @460 meters per second / 1,000 miles per hour… is constantly making a motion picture out of our nighttime skies…  the tilt of Earth’s axis positioning the red planet too low in the southwestern, hazy skies…  the sky awash with both lunar brightness and manmade light pollution…  the ongoing “game” of planetary peekaboo “curtesy” of two, nearby, towering, deciduous trees.
Even so, this amateur astronomer relishes any opportunity to experience the grandeur of our little corner of the universe… views any need to repeatedly relocate and realign his unwieldy scope to be a labor of love.
And now that I’ve accurately trained my smaller, finder scope’s crosshairs, it’s time to peer through the eyepiece… get my very first, optically enhanced, glance at Mars in nearly a decade and a half. I can feel my facial muscles forming a slight, contented smile.
The still of the night’s “soundtrack” is now “in/on the air”. The “musical genres” inclusive of my “easy listening” rhythmic breathing… the “one hit wonder” of brief, off in the far distance, spooked crow’s caws… the occasional “garage band” roar of 18-wheeler semis barreling down the faraway, highways and byways… the “classical flautist” inspired unexpected, mournful blasts of a miles away, freight-train engineer’s horn.
A transcendental moment, such as this, is where one’s worldly concerns dissolve into the rarefied air. Minds tend to free associate / wander and welcome the timelessness of it all. A sense of DNA level déjà vu also enters the mix… after all… has not humankind been stargazing ever since first standing up on two feet? Ever since that (then) newly evolved posture first allowed us to look upward to the eternal heavens?
Stay tuned for Part 2… to be posted later this week.