Sleepless Nights, Aches and Pains all for the Love of Stargazing

Sitting at home watching the news a few evenings ago, I heard
those beautiful words that all astronomers love to hear.
Sitting at home watching the news a few evenings ago, I heard those beautiful words that all astronomers love to hear. They were coming from KSBW weatherman Jim Vanderzwaan. What were those words of delight? “What a night for stargazing.”

It was like he was talking directly to me. That’s all it took for me to immediately pick up the phone and call my buddy stargazers, Steve and Mike. Mike couldn’t make it, but Steve said OK and we were off.

The next thing I knew, I was flying down Highway 25 with my trailer full of everything I could think of that pertained to my astronomy gear. One item in particular was my 18-inch telescope that I bought last December. But since the skies have been so bad for stargazing recently, this was the first chance I had to use the telescope under the beautiful dark skies of south San Benito County.

Our location is some 30 miles south of Hollister, 3,000 feet up in some of the best dark skies in Central California. The property belongs to a friend of mine who is always nice enough to let us use it for stargazing. (We are especially careful to make sure when we leave that everything is cleaned up and things are left the way we found them so we are invited back to view again.)

So there we were, two grown men standing out in the middle of nowhere, doing something that we both enjoy immensely: observing the wonders of the night sky. We can’t seem to get enough of this adventure, and before we knew it was 3am.

That got me thinking. Here I am getting to bed at 4 in the morning, knowing I have to get up sometime very soon to go to work. My back has been giving me problems, my right knee doesn’t seem to be any better and I have been fighting this annoying headache all day.

So why do I do this? I know, with my body feeling the way it does, I wouldn’t be out playing basketball. I certainly wouldn’t be going to work, and for sure I would get out of every chore that needed to be done at home. But yet, here I am putting my body through all of this, for what?

Well, that “what” is one of the great loves of my life. Nothing I know can keep me up to all hours of the night, without any hint of sleepiness, than enjoying the views I can get through my telescope.

Everyone has his or her own thing, and this is mine. Sometimes I feel sad that everyone else doesn’t get excited like I do about astronomy. But I guess that’s not being very realistic. I know I don’t get all that exited when my wife talks about her quilting, so why should I expect everyone else to get all pumped up about astronomy?

I suppose I need to get back to Vanderzwaan and thank him. I don’t believe my friend and I would have gone stargazing and had such a great time if it hadn’t been for the weatherman’s timely report that night. On the other hand, maybe I can just blame him for putting me through all the pain, hurts, and sleepless hours I went through that evening and morning!

There is so much out there in the night skies. Take a friend and a telescope out some night this week, and check out what else there is to see. Clear skies.

David Baumgartner is in local real estate and is an avid amateur astronomer. His Sky Watch column appears monthly.