Look up when you’re feeling down

I have a sad bastard story with a happy ending. It begins after I returned from Easter and setup a date for the following Tuesday. I was so certain the date was going to happen that I had mom pack up the last of our morel findings for me to bring to the potential date. I did this because over Easter weekend I shared some of my experiences from the weekend including not only the morel explosion, but even some pictures of wildflowers. I was rather smitten.

Tuesday evening arrived and I got to the venue early to play trivia. This was doubly exciting since I hadn’t played trivia since moving to Cincinnati. The place was packed and I was fortunate to get a seat, let alone two. It worked out, she arrived in time, and we began to play. I alone gave us a perfect score till we hit the Harry Potter category. We knew nothing about Harry Potter (and proud of it), and the host even made fun of our horrible answer. That’s OK. Still it kinda went downhill from there and we ended in last place. That’s OK, we finally began to enjoy our company now that the pressure was off. We ended up talking (and drinking) for another two hours, and even ended the evening on a few kisses (yes, I kiss and tell I suppose). I was ecstatic (she loved her morel gift by the way), and out next date was going to be Saturday at her singing debut with a bossa nova band. Sweet!

From there the communication began to wane. Then came the excuses. Long story short; the Saturday date was off. Lame.

To make matters worse I still hadn’t been back to work  in a couple of weeks, then I pinched a nerve or pulled a muscle in my back. It was so bad I couldn’t even roll over in bed, let alone get up. Once I did manage did get upright, I still couldn’t let a beautiful day go by so I still got on my bike. Strangely enough the biking helped my ailing back, even though it took a few nights of agony before I was sleeping comfortably. On a side note, I actually crashed my bike for the first time in like two years when I hit one of those road plates wrong. Fortunately all it did was take some hair off my knee. It may have aggravated my back a little more too. It’s mostly better now.

Cincinnati Observatory

So, back to my Saturday night and the happy ending. Saturday evening I was watching the news, and they reported the Cincinnati Observatory was having a viewing from 8-10 in celebration of the 167th anniversary of their first telescope. Bingo, my night was salvaged. This telescope is special for a number of reasons. Back in the 1800’s, astronomy was popular in Europe and had 100’s of telescopes in most cities for the public to view. The United States had none. President John Quincy Adams was an advocate to bring an observatory to the States, but given that well, the individual States had more power back then it was shot down. Finally, Ormsby M. Mitchel, a professor at Cincinnati College organized the Cincinnati Astronomical Society gathered enough funding to bring the first telescope to the US. The telescope was purchased in Munich, and at the time the 1843 Merz und Mahler 11 inch refractor was the 2nd largest telescope in the world. It is also believed that it is the oldest continually used telescope in the world.

So, with your history lesson there I was obviously stoked about checking out this telescope. It only got better.

I arrived to the history lesson inside the foyer of the observatory underway. This is where I got the above history lesson, and was surprised to find out that a newer (yet still old) telescope was in the main observatory building that we went upstairs to check out. This one was installed in 1904 and has a 16″ refractor. The most amazing thing is both were installed before there was any electrical power, therefore everything is counterweight or manually powered. Amazing. We did not get to look out of the “newer” scope since the “old” one was the honorary scope for the night. That’s cool. 🙂

1904 "new" telescope

1904 “new” telescope

Before we left the observatory they mentioned the International Space Station was due to flyover soon so we were heading outside. When we got outside there was another surprise. Someone (and not just anyone) had placed a portable scope outside pointed at Jupiter. We all took turns to look at the largest planet sitting oh so small in the west. Upon further inspection not only did we see the big planet, but a few of its moons even appeared. How cool!  In the meantime, that person who had setup the portable telescope, and telling us when the ISS was going to appear was Dean Regas. Who the hell is Dean Regas you ask? Well, to flashback, my love for astronomy is likely most credited to the late Jack Horkheimer. If you have to ask who he is well you may have never watched PBS late night. He gave a highlight about some astronomical event of the week whether it be a meteor shower, eclipse, or even a rare comet in a 5 minute segment. If I was up late enough to see his segment, I was happy, and sometimes stepped outside to see it. Anyhow with Jack’s passing, many other astronomers took his place to educate the PBS public about the stars. The most common co-host has been well, Cincinnati’s Dean Regas. While the ISS passed I had pulled out my ol’ trusty iPhone and began talking to the other onlookers about how the ISS is powered, why it is lit up, and when and how the ISS was going to disappear. One actually asked if “I worked there”. 🙂

I talked to Dean briefly about astronomical smartphone apps, and if he knew about the Iridium 45 communication satellite passing over. He did not, and expected to be around later when it was due to pass. I was excited about this since I had never seen one myself. But first, I had the join the rest of the group to check out the historic honorary telescope.

About 30 of us packed into the smaller observatory where the old telescope is housed. Its mahogany veneer and chuckwagon wheel really made it look something that belonged in a museum. The first target was Venus, which I didn’t learn till I watched the aforementioned PBS segment last week that has phases, and all of its beauty. They made a mention of Venus eclipsing the sun on June 5th and to mark our calendars. Next, they pointed it at Mars. Not as impressive in my opinion, but again, to look at something in more detail millions of miles away is still cool. Meanwhile they had setup another portable scope outside with Saturn in its marks. I headed out right away though not to see Saturn, but look for the Iridium flare. I was hoping to meet Dean to see it, and shortly after getting into position Dean came out and we both watched together for the flare. He was amazed of my iPhone app called Sputnik! that tells you the trajectory of the satellite, and even beeps when to look. This normally would have made my night, but still much was ahead.

The "old" 1843 telescope

At the portable scope I got to see Saturn up close for the first time, and see a little dot next to it which was likely one of Saturn’s moons, Titan. They told me the view in this scope would likely be better than the old scope inside. Oh well. I went back into the observatory anyhow as the setup to view Saturn. A bit of patience had to set in as a cloud deck began to move over. Finally, I got to step up onto the platform and look at Saturn through the old scope. I wasn’t disappointed as the view was actually better, and could see the distinctive space between the rings and planet. Wow!

At that point most of the crowd had left and I felt like I had the energy of a 10 year old. I was grinning ear to ear on my bike ride home. I will undoubtedly become a member soon. I kinda want to buy a scope, but with membership I can actually access a scope for 30 days at a time! Look out nieces and nephews, Uncle Jeff will be turning you onto our solar system.

I was so glad the date never happened, and at that point I was still optimistic we were going to meet for another trivia night this week. As my night winded down I asked her how her debut went; I didn’t get a reply. The next day she mentioned how well the night went, but never cared to ask about my night, or my back, or anything much actually. I hid blocked her on the dating site. There are more stars in the sky for me to see. 🙂

About jeffbedel

Indiana native that moved to Cincinnati in January 2012. Former trivia host, beer snob, foodie, non-conformist.

Posted on April 16, 2012, in new places, world. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Nice read Jeff. Wish I could have been there.

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