Juneau, Alaska sits in the middle of a northwest coastal rainforest in a maritime climate, receiving an average of 222 days of rain per year. Clouds drop onto the “hills of the Tlingit”. According to Ben, a local native, “The transplants,” he chuckled, “call those hills “mountains”.” The sky can’t be seen, but people still see within the range of the microclimate bubbles and pockets, when the clouds allow it. Misty rain during any given day just doesn’t let up.
But I was there on a “rare” sunny day. Telescopes were set up outside on the concrete pads outside of Harborview School the night of the show so patrons could view the sun. It was 7:00 p.m. The sun was high. It was Alaska in June.
A priceless preview of this planet’s premium star started the evening’s performance. One telescope was set to view sunspots, and the other to view solar flares. This was personal equipment belonging to the Planetarium’s curator, Michael Orelove.
I was the first on the scene to see the star show. Well, I wasn’t alone. Michael was there. Being a scientist he wears a nutty professor look and wears it well. His attire was apropos; the shirt was speckled with dancing yellow swirls resembling pools of sunspots on a red background. He is a tall man with short, wiry, gray hair. Effervescent energy oozes from his pores even animating his shirt as he flitted about. “We may be the only ones who show up for this since it’s such a sunny day,” he said as he eyed me over his wire-rim glasses.
After that statement, we were both surprised when an unusual drove of avid star-finders began appearing. As though previous coaching had taken place, many helped Michael hand out flyers, star charts, and crayons. I helped with instruction to the children on the use of a simple solar viewer and felt like a kid myself when I fully realized the earth’s movement as the sun’s image drifted off the paper. Skeptics thought spots on the lens were lint, but wowed at the flaming limbs of fire when they saw storms on the sun.
Personally, I was mesmerized by the sun’s image as it moved off the paper. I swooned and was thankful for gravity, because I felt pulled by the sun and earth at the same time. For one fleeting moment, even though it was sunny, I was in a mist (mythst). Heightened awareness occurred and I realized our language in describing the rise and set of the sun is a common mistake. The sun appears to rise and set, when in fact, our earth moves, and we take it for granted.
With over forty in attendance Michael’s excitement filtering into his dialogue, that stumbled along with his feet. He was thrown for a loop. Perhaps he couldn’t see in the dark to set the longitudes and latitudes of the star-finder, or, perhaps he found himself in the common Juneau mist for other reasons.
Before beginning, he asked, “Are you single, oh, and are you a local? May I call you, or you can just come down here and become a volunteer. You can be my assistant. Here’s my card.” Printed on the card was Mt. Juneau Observatory, Michael Orelove. For an instant I felt a little heady. He enthusiastically added, “I will teach you how to run and operate the machine that holds the stars.” What a priceless opportunity! Of course, I agreed. Neither of us confirmed how long. MK bag for sale