Lively discussion at the breakfast table this morning (August 31) with Ted Pellman, Jon Dannehy, Eric Norland and Bob Greene. How do people on so little sleep continue to talk astronomy nonstop? Three things: passion, coffee and … lack of sleep. Photo: Bob King
I know, I know. I promised you the Andromeda galaxy and Cepheids but I hope you won’t mind if we make a stop near Webster, Wisconsin for a look at the annual Furtman Farm Star Party. It’s still going on as I write this. Earlier this afternoon, over pasta and salsa, we tackled subjects from how to cook corn in the microwave to what the universe would look if you could travel at the speed of light. Let’s just say the corn turned out well.
Paula Meier (left) of Duluth zeroes in on the planet Jupiter during twilight last night. Photo: Bob King
The star party is an easygoing, friendly gathering of amateur astronomers and their families hosted by the genial Greg and Laura Furtman. We set up our telescopes on a grassy clearing near an old grain silo, and shared the sky with one another till 3 this morning. I knew I was in the right place at the right time when I overheard a young boy named Murphy react to seeing the Milky Way: "It looks like powder spread across the sky," he called out.
During a 30-second time exposure of the Milky Way early this morning, Jim Schaff of Hermantown used a green laser pointer to "paint" the silo with the name of the Furtman Star Party. Photo : Jim Schaff
As you who read this well know, it’s very energizing to share our passion with those of like mind. We form a bond with them that sustains and nurtures our spirit. A gathering under the stars is one of the most enjoyable ways to achieve this.
After the midnight snack and a discussion of why the main deflector (whatever that is) always seemed to get the cast of TV’s Star Trek out trouble, we returned to plumbing the sky until the body wasn’t able. I went to the barn just before 3 a.m. to unroll my sleeping bag. The moving beam of my flashlight lit upon an odd assortment of computer keyboards and bales of hay. We live in constant transition. Even as I lay my head to pillow, I thought of the sleepless stars beyond the window. While they run their incessant cycles, the good people of Earth join together to find purpose in it all.
Gracious party hosts Greg and Laura Furtman. Photo: Bob King