Searching the Sky: meeting a real astronomer

David Bumgartner writes about connecting with a cousin with similar interests.

This article was written by David Baumgartner as part of a local astronomy series.

Few years ago when i was spending time in the air force my mom shed some light on something that had probably weighed on her for over 20 years, something she must have had a hard time discussing with me.

She said, “I have something to tell you, and I hope you will try to understand the scope of the story and the position I was in a long time ago and where I feel I am as well. right now.”

I said, “Mother, there is nothing you can tell me that would bother me so much to change the love I have for you right now.”


What she said didn’t change the love aspect, but it sure rocked me.

She sat there for what seemed like an eternity, then looked me straight in the eye and said, “Clayton.”

I said, “Yes, Father.”

She shakes her head at me back and forth to say “No”. For the first time in my life, I was completely speechless, not a word came out of my mouth, which had always served me well in the past.

We spent the next, I do not know how many hours in the night reviewing his story, which I am not going to overwhelm you here today. Except to say that Clayton was my most distant until that night and remained so until the day he died. One of the nicest people I know. I thank him for taking me as his.

Now, needless to say, the next morning I started my long journey looking for and finding my new family. I found an aunt who has a son, Patrick, my cousin. Patrick works at Rice University as a teaching professor, you guessed it: physics and astronomy.

Well, I was flabbergasted to say the least. I looked for him and called him. We talked for a while and I told him I talked to his mom last week and she told me about him. Suddenly he calms down.

“Is anything wrong?” I muttered.

He said his mother passed away five years ago. So, what do we say now?

It turns out I got the wrong Patrick. But he was pretty good at the whole Miss adventure.

As we hung up he said, “Oh yeah, do me a favor. next time you talk to my mom, tell her i said hello to her.

Funny guy.

I finally got my hands on the right Patrick and got to meet him at Stanford University where he was working on one of his projects. We met for lunch and had a great time mainly with me asking simple astronomical questions and him asking about the orchard. He knew I had a walnut orchard, and he kept coming back to the nuts to get around the astronomical questions he received every day in class.

Boy, were we on a different scientific level. Talking to him some high-level sort of English, and me saying informative things like that then, geese, that’s cool, wow, and shaking my head up and down as if to say I knew what he was talking about. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, but not a lot.

It was so great having it all to myself. The most interesting thing we talked to him about was that we each have and work in the same lab: it would be heaven above. We have pretty much the same equipment, he has a telescope and I have a telescope and so on. Realizing that my little 8 inch telescope may not be as powerful as the 6ft Hubble Mirror Space Telescope that Pat had the experience of working on for 24 hours.

This is how they charge scientists by the hour, but to get there they have to submit and get their project approved by the Hubble Gods. And it might take a while to get approved (I don’t know who these gods are). And he goes on and tells me about all the different terrestrial telescopes he’s worked on. If I had the chance to use one of these land expanses, I wouldn’t call it work, I would call it “Play Time”.

Whenever I’m under the night sky and looking at a planet, open / globular star cluster, nebula or whatever, I wonder if Patrick is looking at the same object as me, with a huge telescope that I will ever go to the chance to look through. Although Patrick said that the next time he was in California working on a project with one of these big telescopes, he would see if he could get me in to play with it. My God, oh geese, wow that would be cool.

The main point here is that you can have the same kind of adventure as the better equipped astronomers, you just can’t see things as big and as far away as possible. But there is so much to see with a small 3 “to 8” telescope. This should keep you occupied for a long time. You just have to know where to look. And if you happen to see the mother of the first Patrick, tell her that her son said hello… .. Thank you.

Clear sky,

August 02: the Moon is at its apogee (251,289 miles from Earth)

August 08: New Moon

August 09: the Moon passes 4 degrees north of Mars

August 11: the Moon passes 4 degrees north of Venus

August 11: Mercury rises to 1.2 degrees north of Regulus

August 12: Perseid meteor shower peaks

August 15: first quarter moon

About Johnnie Gross

Johnnie Gross

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