August 20, 2011

It's a Small Universe

Yesterday evening Rob and I went to Cornell so I could practice and he could sit and listen adoringly to every scale, lip slur, and tonguing exercise I could muster. It blows my mind that he actually enjoys listening to me practice every day, but I'm not going to complain too much. If anything it's great training for me to maintain focus and composure with someone sitting in front of my bell.

Afterward we walked back to my car underneath tantalizingly clear skies and I asked Rob if he thought the Fuertes Observatory would be open for viewing. The Cornell Astronomical Society hosts public star parties there every clear friday night, but it'd been quite a while since we had one of those so we hadn't yet been over to check out their old 12 inch refractor. Rob agreed it would be worth investigating so we dropped off my stuff and headed out.

Cornell's residence halls opened yesterday and orientations for the upcoming school year have begun so walking from the space sciences building (where Rob works) to the upper east side of campus was like swimming upstream. Waves of expectant students were trekking in herds from the dorms to "college town"--an area of Ithaca known for its late-night student-oriented socializing/eating/drinking opportunities. As we brushed shoulders with rowdy and newly-independent undergrads Rob and I rolled our eyes a bit and quipped that as youthfully goofy as they all seemed right then, they were still somehow good enough to get into an Ivy League institution...something that at least I could never have hoped to qualify least fresh out of high school.

When we reached the main complex of dormitories and frat houses, spotlights glared up into the night sky and a heavily amplified announcer was riling the crowds for some kind of concert or party. An amazing rusty-orange waning moon had just cleared the treetops when we spotted the red lights of the observatory. Any possibility for becoming dark adapted had been lost to the spotlights so as we ascended the hill toward Fuertes we stepped cautiously. Around here you never know when a gorge is going to open up in front of you, or a curious bear is going to come lumbering out of the woods...

The observatory looked deserted at street level, but there was a bike tied up around back and the lights in the lobby were on, so I eventually decided to quit my shyness and open the door. A guestbook was set up on a small table against the wall and arrows pointing the way upstairs had been hastily scrawled in sharpie on some old typing paper. When we reached the top of the short spiral and reentered the darkness, we joined a small group of people clustered around the eyepiece of a beautiful old refractor pointing high into the summer sky. We each took a turn taking a peek at the pretty little fuzzball that is comet Garradd...where is it? mean that little fuzzy thing above the I kicked myself for leaving my camera in the car.

Just off to the side of the telescope dome was a good sized balcony and a number of other people were hanging out there fiddling with some medium-sized dobsonians and a nice pair of mounted binoculars. Though the level of light pollution emanating from the nearby dorm festivities was almost shameful and the seeing was further corrupted by high humidity, it was nice to be out under the stars with a bunch of fellow nerds and enthusiasts.

I introduced myself to an involved looking guy wearing a Cornell Astronomy t-shirt and asked some questions about the club and its activities. Long story short here--turns out that Art is a composer and music theorist and is friends with Dr. Ashley, the teacher of the Music and Memory course I had taken at NU during spring quarter...the smallness of the music (and I guess now astronomy) world never ceases to amaze me! Rob and I hung out chatting with Art (or "purple" as he called himself) until a blazing Jupiter rose above the trees and the observatory closed for the night.

We walked back to the car--this time swimming upstream through herds of undergrads stumbling back to the dorms after their college-town escapades--and (after picking up my camera) paused to take this shot of the moon and Jupiter rising between two of Cornell's physics buildings--one old and one brand-spankin' new...

When we got home, I captured the celestial pairing again, shown here in a heavily i-photoed version...certainly not great astro-photography, but kinda pretty none the less...

1 comment:

  1. That really sounds like you had a romantic day/evening. I love that you and Rob are together. He's awesome and so are you!!!