You don’t need a big, strong telescope to see wonders in the night sky. All the ancients had was their eyes, and since the air was unpolluted and without the interference of electric lights, they could see quite a lot up there. I’ve often thought that the ancients must have been able to see a lot more stars in the constellations, because none of them looks much like its name these days. These ancients, with only their eyes, charted and mapped the sky, and did it so well that we are still able to use these same charts and maps. We also still use the names the ancients gave to what they saw in the sky.
Add to your eyes a pair of binoculars, and your night sky wonders will increase more than you could ever imagine. Those first telescopes, remember, weren’t nearly as powerful as those pink Happy Meal binoculars on the floor of your van. If you have powerful big-boy/girl binoculars, all the better.
Without a telescope – with just binoculars – you’ll be able to see several of Jupiter’s moons, and Saturn’s rings (if it’s turned the right way) and Venus & Mars as discs, not just dots.
Remember how to spot a planet: they don’t twinkle as stars do. Only objects that shine with their own light will twinkle; the objects that shine with reflected light will just shine; they won’t twinkle. Think about it: a twinkling moon would be more than just a little bit scary!
I used to be a little girl who sneaked outside late at night to lie on top of the car and scan the sky with those very same pink plastic binoculars.
So yes, I have known what it feels like to have a genuine wish come true. While other little girls crossed their fingers and shut their eyes and hoped for Barbie under the tree that year, all I wanted was a telescope. And I got it. I can still remember the sensation of realizing my wish had been granted.
And with it, I could watch the universe, unfolding, closer and clearer than ever. It’s not all science, you know. It’s everything. Science just helps us make sense of it.