Thursday, August 18, 2016

Star Party @ Sea

The past few days aboard 'Leroy Grumman' have been
quite remarkable for me. Ordinarily, you see, I find
myself a lone geek among the crew of whatever ship I
happen to sail in, the only Mariner aboard with the
particular passions that are so much a part of my
life. I refer of course to my love of
science, and of astronomy in particular.

Oh, there will normally be one or two members of a
crew with whom I can enjoy an occasional
conversation on some facet or another of the sky and
it's wonders. Oftentimes I find myself leaning on a
bridge-wing stanchion, chatting with the lookout or
Mate on Watch as we watch the stars wheel overhead to
the ship's pitch and roll, showing the Cadets how to
locate the Pole Star or planets as dawn approaches,
or convincing the ship's company to assemble on the
flight deck to enjoy a Lunar Eclipse--but to my
knowledge I've never sailed with anyone quite as
involved in the stars and constellations as I.

Until now.

A few weeks ago I met Xavier, one of our busy Deck
force, and in the course of discussion I discovered
in him a kindred spirit. Like me he spends much of
his free time stargazing and reading about the
Cosmos, but dissimilarly he hasn't yet made the leap
to telescopic astronomy. In fact, right now he is
carefully researching types and models of 'optik
tubes', looking forward to that first precision
instrument purchase. With his youth and enthusiasm, I
see in him a much younger ME, weighing equipment
options and eager to begin the great adventure.

I consider myself very fortunate to have a Shipmate
of similar cloth, with whom to exchange views on
recent discoveries and theories, to debate equipment
choices, and to enjoy the view from on-deck as
twilight fades and the night's display begins.

But it turns out that Xavier and I are not alone;
just a few days ago a third member joined our tiny
astronomy club @ sea. Our newest member is Victor
(not his real name), he brings to our group not only
interest and energy but a very impressive and
portable 80mm refractor telescope.

After so many years of being the Lone Ranger, I seem
to have fallen in with a Posse...

Last night was the first of what I hope to be a
frequent event in future; Victor set up his refractor
on the starboard side bridge wing while I toted my
Astroscan reflector topside to join him. It was a
mostly-cloudy night with a massive thunderstorm
flashing and booming in the north and west, a brisk
wind across the deck and a choppy sea, but all of
that didn't matter. A small crowd (including the
Captain) gathered to observe the ascending Moon
through our instruments; even the vibration of
engines and generators from below decks, making
Luna's image dance and leap, did little to dampen our
enjoyment of the evening.

Mars and Saturn never did emerge from the clouds to
the south, and eventually the party broke up as it
appeared that the heavens were intent not to be more
forthcoming in their splendors. But I think we might
try again, soon--and perhaps Xavier will join us in
bringing telescopes topside in a near-future Star
Party @ Sea.

I like the way this is going...