Tonight, I stepped beyond the city lights. We’re on a trip through western Texas, having replaced the dim glow that we call “urban night” with perhaps the darkest skies in the United States. Amid a cold, red glow at the top of a mountain bathed in moonlight as bright as day through my usual sunglasses, night watchmen of the skies lent us a look through their portals to the cosmos, a half dozen telescopes.
I saw a stellar nursery beneath Orion’s belt, its clouds blown outward by far-off charged winds of just-born stars (thousands of years ago, that is). I saw the haze of a galaxy larger than our Moon in the sky, Andromeda, normally invisible in its dimness. I saw the rust-striped white disk of Jupiter, like a tiger’s belly viewed through a drinking straw, its light even a half hour old. And a crater of our own Moon, its central peak catching the light of the monthly sunrise like our own mountains grasp the end of twilight.
It was a change of perspective, for sure. It was also a reminder that there is a night beyond the night that most of us know, if we only go looking for it.