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A little night driving

My son wanted a telescope for his birthday, so we got him a relatively inexpensive beginner’s model. On the first night, he learned that there really isn’t much to see from our back yard. There’s just too much light pollution in our area.

Illustration for article titled A little night driving
Screenshot: Light pollution in south Louisiana. Warmer colors mean brighter skies at night.
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Clearly, we needed to go to the great dark north. So, we packed the telescope into the truck and took a little drive. Fortunately, we didn’t have to travel too far north to get to a dark area. The trick is finding an opening in the trees.

Illustration for article titled A little night driving
Photo: Mine
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We arrived at the wildlife management area (WMA) while there was still some daylight so we could find a clear spot and had some light to get set up. We never found one. So, we compromised by setting up in a small church parking lot on the other side of the WMA.

It’s been a while since we’d been deep in the country. It was nice to see the stars and the Milky Way again. I’m not sure my son ever paid attention when we went camping. He was shocked at the number of stars in the sky. Shocked and excited.

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Now this is where I should be posting a bunch of pictures of the things we saw. But this is actually where I realized that I forgot the “good” camera and discovered that my iPhone’s camera has performance issues in low light.

Illustration for article titled A little night driving
Photo: Mine
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That, my friends, is Jupiter as captured by holding an iPhone up to the ocular of a telescope. Looking through the telescope, we could see Jupiter and all four moons. We could also see Saturn’s rings. If you’ve never seen these things in real time, they are amazing.

After a couple of hours of stargazing, it was time to head home. We still had another hour and a half of driving ahead of us. While we could have taken a more populated route back home, my son opted to go through the WMA again.

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Illustration for article titled A little night driving
Photo: Mine

Slowly driving through a dark forest on a moonless night on a one-lane gravel road is a lot more fun that it seems. We can’t wait to find an even darker spot for the next trip.

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