Looking up at millions of stars that dot the night sky is an enchanting experience for me and many questions run through my mind. Does life exist on one of those planets millions of light years away? How big is the Universe? How old it? Those questions will probably not be answered within this lifetime. Even though science has made a lot of progress, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Other than that, it is humbling to know that we are just a tiny dot in this vast expanse with all the uncountable stars and planets.
Even without a telescope, we can enjoy the beauty of the Universe. For people who love star gazing, it is easier to view stars from rural rather than urban areas because there is less artificial light and pollution, which gives a clearer view of the skies. I remember getting a wonderful view of the starry skies about five years ago in Godavari on a cool summer’s eve. The fireflies flying all around added to the surreal beauty of the night. During my recent trip to Dhading, I got a spectacular view of the stars. The sky was crystal clear with not a single cloud in sight. I’ve never seen the sky look so amazingly beautiful and I cannot even begin to describe how breathtaking the sight was. It left me completely awe-struck and gave me goose bumps. There were millions of stars splashed across the vast expanse of the dark sky and there were hardly any empty spaces between the stars. Even the Milky Way was clearly visible; a white patch that looked somewhat like the faint outline of a cloud that was filled with stars. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of knowing that we live in such a flawlessly beautiful Universe.
It is even more enchanting when out of the blue a shooting star is spotted dashing across the sky. Sometimes Mother Nature amazes us with her surprises. Once in a while, the sky is filled with nature’s own spectacular fireworks, like, the occurrence of meteor showers, appearances of comets and solar/ lunar eclipses. For someone like me, who enjoys gazing at the night sky, even viewing the different phases of the moon is really interesting. Through the telescope gifted to me by my dad earlier this year, I was able to view the moon’s craters, and I was so thrilled. It made me wonder how the people who first stepped on the moon must’ve felt and how the Earth must’ve looked from outer space. I have a faint idea of how it feels to be gravity less. Two years ago, while visiting my sister in Texas, she took me on a discovery flight at her aviation school. (A discovery flight is a flight for those who are interested in aviation and it gives you a feel of how it feels to fly a plane. You even get to use some of the controls for a few minutes.) During the flight, the instructor did something called zero gravity. He asked me to hold out the palm of my hand and he placed a pen on it. He then did something which made the plane gravity less for a few minutes and the pen in my hand levitated. For a split second, I too felt almost weightless and felt as if I was floating. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget and one of my most prized memories. It gave me a tiny glimpse into how astronauts feel while in outer space.
The meteor shower I witnessed in the year 2007 is also one of my cherished memories. When I read in the newspapers that a meteor shower would be occurring the following night, I set an alarm for the time it would occur and went up to the terrace to witness the phenomenon. I was able to spot about ten shooting stars in an hour’s time that night and that was quite an achievement for me.
My love for star gazing started when I was a little girl and my parents told me about the stars and the planets. Both my parents are interested in astronomy and they often showed me the North Star, Orion’s Belt, the Great Dipper and planet Venus. During a trip to Calcutta when I was in second grade, my parents took me to a planetarium and I was completely dumbfounded with all the amazing facts about the Universe that we live in. When I was in my teens, I would often go to the garden after dinner and lie down on the ground to gaze at the stars. It has always been one of my most favorite past-times and I can gaze at the sky for hours on end.
They say the best things in life are free- and star gazing proves that point perfectly well. You don’t always need a lot of money to enjoy the little things in life. However, in the near future, I hope to acquire a powerful telescope so that I can see Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s moons as well. And hopefully, one day I’ll earn enough to book a ticket on the Virgin Galactic. Until then, I’ll just enjoy the view from here on Earth and I’ll keep dreaming about someday going on a trip to outer space. A little dreaming never hurt anyone.