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 Thursday, January 7, 2010

Galilean Satellites

"Are you still cold?" Trudy asked.

"No," I said as I zipped a vest over my sweater. "I'm going out to see Jupiter."

"Oh. Right."

Four hundred years ago Galileo looked to the heavens through a telescope and found Jupiter to be a world of its own with moons going 'round. Tonite was a good night to do the same. So I picked up my gloves and stocking hat. I grabbed the binoculars. I buttoned my winter coat and went out the front door.

Truth be known, my winter coat is not much of a coat, and my gloves are not all that warm. And no more than ten steps out, I figured that my stocking cap was not enough and pulled a second one over the first, looking perhaps just like ...

There was a woman standing outside her duplex down the street talking loudly into her phone. What on earth she was doing standing outside on a night like this with temperatures plunging and a cold wind blowing? She might have wondered the same thing about a man with two caps and a pair of binoculars dangling around his neck.

I crossed the street. The wind picked up and slapped me in the face. It was really cold.

Ok, maybe I don't need to stand WAY OUT in the field. Just in the lea of the school building will be fine.

On the far side of the school, around the back corner, the wind stopped. I leaned against the brick wall with my shoulder propped against the gutter and held the binoculars to my eyes.

My teeth chattered and the muscles in my back started clenching. Jupiter jumped around in the field of view making fractal Lissagous curves. Or was that really Jupiter? I couldn't see any moons, but then I was having no success holding the binoculars still.

Maybe it's that bright star over there. Where else could it be? I looked around in vain. Why didn't I do my homework? Oh man am I cold.

Four hundred years ago, any respectable astronomer would have drooled over my binoculars and would have braved such cold to gaze at Betelgeuse and the Pleiades and would have stayed out late as the stars wheeled overhead. But my teeth are chattering and my legs are cold and either I don't know where Jupiter is tonite or the clouds are just enough to blot out those little Galilean satellites.

So I called it quits.

I turned back around the corner of the school into the cold wind and walked back home with nothing to show. Too bad. I would have liked to tell you about it.

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