Wait for it. This is the California low desert in August and the temperature is well over a hundred degrees in the daytime. Wait as the shadows lengthen. The desert has a short twilight, and the weather is quite nice after the sun sets. Wait, and the bold stars come out. We are in shirtsleeves and shorts while we wait for the moon to set. The sky is clear. We break out the telescopes and binoculars. The sliver of moon is our first drink of the night sky.
I’m in the desert with my family and neighbors as we camp in a dry lake bed. It has been a tough year, and the sky is a welcome sight. I notice as the adults, one by one, take a few steps away from the quiet conversation and look upward in silence. They don’t need a telescope to stand in awe. Globular clusters are an appetizer served by moonlight.
Like a second sunset, the moon-shadows lengthen until the valley slips into a deeper darkness. Finally, the moon falls behind the horizon and the moonglow melts from the mountain peaks. Distant cities are now only a hint of light on the horizon. Like a second sunset, the hidden stars come into view. These stars are too shy to be seen in the moonlight. Now the river of our galaxy glows overhead with its waves and ripples and eddies of faint stars. We select the stars by name and color and take a closer look though the eyepiece. I stop counting the shooting stars.
Our neighbor galaxy can almost be seen with a naked eye, it seems so close. This galaxy is too easy to see through binoculars or a telescope. It feels like we are peering into a neighbor’s backyard rather than walking over to talk politely.
We let the sharp-eyed children choose the next fuzzy spots in the darkness. Galaxies and globular clusters and gaseous nebula are the main course. The stars talk, and I listen with all my senses. Hours pass in the darkness and new stars roll into view. Jupiter and its moons climb into view and are our desert.
In the early morning I’m finally full and wander to bed.
I’ve dark dreams filled with stars.
Public images from the net.
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