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My God, it's full of stars...


In memory of the crew of STS-107 - February 1, 2003


Ever since my assignment at Eglin AFB, I've had a fascination with the heavens. The radar that my squadron supported was built specifically to track objects in space. Facing south from the Florida Panhandle, the Grand Old Lady of the South covers 120 degrees in azimuth, over 90 degrees in altitude, all in excess of 22,000 nautical miles in range. There I learned that the space around Earth wasn't as empty as I had thought, and that there was quite a bit of hardware in orbit around us (a large percentage of which is junk). I used to lie on the beach at night and stare at the heavens trying to spot a satellite with my naked eye, and became quite proficient at it. But that was a long time ago in a different life.


From my back yard here in Flower Mound I can spot just about anything with a visual magnitude under 3, but sandwiched in between D/FW to the south and Denton to the north, the light pollution makes it impossible to really gaze at the heavens and appreciate its beauty. As luck would have it, I met a amateur astronomer named Don who was a part owner of the Lone Star Observatory located near Atoka, Oklahoma. Up there, far from any city lights, I was introduced to the darkest skies that I could ever recall. Words cannot express the feelings that I felt that first night. In the weeks leading up to that first visit I was busy studying the major constellations visible at that time of the year so that I could visually pick them out when I arrived in Oklahoma. After arriving at the observatory and getting my night vision back after the long drive, I walked outside and looked up. I've had never seen that many stars before in my life, and was awestruck by the beauty of it all. The first thing that came to mind was the line spoken by Dave Bowman in 2001 A Space Odyssey, "My God, it's full of stars." It's a big universe and we're such a small part of it. Over time and many return visits, I learned my way around the sky. I've even taken a picture or two through the telescopes at LSO, the one on the right was my first. 


Bon Ami in Journal

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