A Night She'll Remember

Roland Culberson - February 12, 2005

Saturday night, February 12, I finally got the opportunity to get out under a decent sky with my wife to be, Linda. Some of you may recall that my initial proposal was to be after I had her out for a short observing session, and had shown her a really beautiful ring around a planet. After which I was going to show her the one that she is wearing on her left hand. Obviously, plan A failed.

To set the stage, I had initially thought of doing this on the above-mentioned night. However, due to an event back in October, I decided that I would rush things forward a touch due to an accident she was involved in and my need for the knowledge of her answer.

The night before Thanksgiving was chosen as the new “pop the question” night, and the weather did exactly what it always does when you plan to observe, it got nasty. Plan B was executed, and I got my answer. (A “Yes” of course.)

Fast forward back to the present...

Saturday night, we had a very clear sky, and Linda just happened to be here, but due to time constraints and poor planning on my part, we were not able to join the rest of the group at JD for the monthly session there. I was able to set the refractor up here at the house though.

We started at about 9PM, and I began by giving her a little moon... looked like a nice early crescent. Both Linda and her daughter were amazed at what they could see. I spent a bit of time there and increased magnification up to a point of silliness to demonstrate what you could do with lunar observation. (This being one of my favorite things, and also due to the fact that Linda bought me the Rukl’s Atlas new version for Christmas)

After being adequately mooned, we went on up into the Orion region. I had shown Linda the different photos I have stored in my computer (Yes, Mr. Kimball, some of yours too!), I wanted her to see the real thing. I explained to Linda and Allie that it looks quite different when you get out in the dark sky and don’t have to deal with the light halo that is present. Linda is somewhat excited and anxious to see the glory of this stellar nursery through a little more aperture and a little less light.

The nebula trip was fun though and after looking at it for a bit at several differing powers, I went off in search of a star of a different color, namely, R Lepus. It took a bit of hunting, as my abilities are somewhat diminished after the length of time I have not been out on a regular basis. I had explained that not all stars were white, like they appear when just looking up, but that there are various colors, and that I really wanted her to see this as I didn’t think she would believe me when I told her it was, well, RED! She and Allie were both somewhat amazed at this one!

From there I hit the Pleiades (Linda used to have a Subaru..) and asked them to take a look. It too was impressive. The nebulosity was not so apparent due to the ambient light locally, but the stars themselves were VERY beautiful due to the wonderfully clear sky.

At the end of the time, we turned the scope toward the ringed planet. As clear as the sky was, this was going to be incredible... And it truly was. I could clearly see four of the near planet moons (extremely silly magnification) and the shading of the globe and bands was outrageous. Those famous words were heard this night as well as many others when someone first peeks at Saturn... “Oh my God!” followed shortly by “Is that real?”

Linda was awed by the beauty of Saturn, as was Allie. I was even taken a bit on this look. The clarity and stableness of the sky was superb, and at a point of magnification that bordered on ludicrous, this observing session was called on account of just being overly tired.

As I put the scope and mount away, Linda continued to ask different questions and went on about how beautiful she thought what she had seen was... Even that elusive little RED star that took what seemed like forever to find.

I know I won’t ever forget this night!