…the light that we looked at tonight started its journey across the Universe.

For the first time since I got to Sean’s we had a clear sky tonight, so Sean and I threw a few extra layers of clothes on and started assembling my telescope. Its a cracking good telescope – a 6″ reflector with a tripod, equatorial mount, drive motors and a small collection of lenses. So we aligned the scope with Polaris and started looking around to see what we could find.

Living this close to London has its disadvantages though, since we had aircraft flying through our path a few times. Finally, after fiddling a lot with various controls, lenses and so on, we finally managed to focus on something fairly simple – Orion’s Sword. After focusing I realised that what we were looking at was not a star, but had a diffuse glow around one side – a nebula.

Stepping up the lenses we zoomed in and finally focused on a nebula that filled the viewfinder. A few stars huddled together in the middle of this cloud of gas, the light from the stars making the dust and gas glow millions of miles away.

After checking our start charts, we’ve been looking at M42, The Great Orion Nebula. There are some far better pictures on the net than what we saw tonight…but nothing compares to standing there in the cold with the knowledge that the light that just entered your eyes took over 1,600 years to arrive. That star might not be there anymore, but if it disappeared today, we wouldn’t find out for another 1600 years. More than anything,
this sight tonight showed me how small and insignificant we are.

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