Posted By Christine Canelos Welsh
I had been interested in astronomy for years, but at the time, my only access to the sky was a small observatory at our local community college, located smack in the middle of light-polluted greater Chicagoland. I did not own a telescope then, but rarely did I have a chance to get even a few miles outside the glow anyway. But I did have a pair of 10x50 binoculars and had embarked on the Astronomical League’s Binocular Messier List, struggling in the light fogged skies to find even those that were listed as “easy”. With the prospect of a long new moon weekend, I had traveled from my home in northern Illinois to my parents’ home in central Missouri where I could see the stars as I remembered them from my childhood. As I packed my car for the trip, I made certain to bring the binoculars, along with my charts, logbook and my hopes for clear weather.
The first two nights were disappointing. Pouring rain, and more predicted. I gave up hope and began to plan for the next new moon weekend that I might be able to get away. But later that Saturday, patches of clear sky began to break through. By that evening, a high pressure system swung unexpectedly out of the northwest, bringing colder temperatures and sweeping the last of the clouds away. I stepped outside and what I saw took my breath away.