Chesterfield Avenue, running through the Phoenix Park, is one of the better places in Dublin to go to on a cold winter’s evening when you want to look at the stars. The only a few meters from the road it gets nice and dark and when the sky is clear a great many stars and planets are visible.
I have recently started going there with Joseph, a friend of mine who works in the astrophysics section on the floor above us. He checks the grapevine so always knows the best things to look at any given day.
One evening we had set up and were starting to observe Jupiter, which was quite bright that night. I heard something from behind us and turned to see what it was. It was a man and small boy, out walking their dog.
“Whatchya looking at?” the boy , he must have been about five, asked me. “A planet!” I replied “do you want to take a look?”
The boy had an eagerness in his eyes I sadly find lacking in the current generation of college students. I kicked Joseph off the telescope and directed the boy, his name was John, to look through the eye-piece. The telescope isn’t very good but you can make out the bands of the cloud deck and If you’re lucky, the Great Red Spot. This was a lucky day.
“Whoa!” John said, filled with wonder “That’s a whole planet?” Joseph answered “Yup! It is! A big one! And can you see two bright stars to the left side of it?” John barely took his eyes away from the eye-piece to nod “They are Ganymede and Callisto; worlds bigger than our own moon.”
We spent another half an hour talking about what we had just looked at and of all the space missions that were going in that direction. It was a wonderful experience, both for us grizzled scientists, and for that young boy.
Maybe a future astronomer?
We can only hope.
Written for Trifecta week Fifty Seven