It’s roughly a light hour (or 746 million miles) away, but when you look through a telescope it’s just right there, so clear with its rings and its many moons. I thought about Galileo seeing it for the first time 400 years ago, how he must have puzzled, the stir his telescope created.
I teared up a little after I looked at Saturn, wondering how I made it to my late 30s without looking so closely at the heavens before. It’s yet another gift my son has given me.
We also examined the surface of the moon and saw a distant galaxy (M105, I think). Then it clouded up and other people left, allowing Declan ample time to play with some computer program that let him fly through the universe, as well as to chat with an astronomer who also happens to clearly enjoy kids.
I got the last-minute notion to run us up to Perkins Observatory on Friday night (thanks to Ed for the reminder). I’d considered it last summer, but hadn’t gone because Declan was still just two, and three was the suggested youngest age, although I think they’d have made an exception if I’d just asked.
At any rate, I’m so glad we went – what a wonderful, family-friendly place, full of people who are just thrilled to tell you whatever they can about the skies. Dec was excited to see through the different telescopes, but he also could have spent hours looking at their book collection, examining globes of Mars and Venus, and trying out all of the different astronomy computer programs. (His mouse skills are so good, it’s a little bit freaky.) I think we’ll be making regular visits back, so that we can see more of the planets as they come into view. And celebrate the sun in July.
If you are in Central Ohio, I highly recommend visiting Perkins. They recently lost their major source of funding (OSU), because while they have the second-largest telescope in Ohio, there are more powerful ones out there nowadays that the university can lease to do its research. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more enthusiastic proponent of science than Director Tom Burns, and that makes the place a real local treasure. He seemed genuinely thrilled to be with people in the crowd who were about to undergo the life-changing experience of seeing Saturn through a telescope, and he was so, so kind to my son.
They are currently on a drive to increase their endowment and save the observatory, so bring plenty of change for the change vortex, money for a Moonpie and whatever else you can spare when you visit.