Last weekend as I trekked to my deer stand in the darkness of the early morning I was captivated by two bright stars that shined almost directly due east. The one star seemed brighter than the other, yet both were in close proximity to one another. Obviously the stars didn’t provide much light to guide path into the woods, but to an extent I knew that walking toward the stars meant I was going easterly in my travels.
In some odd way I felt a connection to the stars with what early man must have felt. Believe it or not, once upon a time there were no GPS units, there was even a time when there were no compasses…but one thing that has always stayed constant for man was the existence of stars in the nighttime sky.
It seems in recent years stargazing has taken on a new popularity with a growing number of folks. For more information click here. But I contend that for many sportsmen we have always had at least a passive interest in some minimal understanding of our celestial system. Perhaps the reason for this is most sporting activities that take you into the darkness of the night also take you away from the city lights where the stars and the sky suddenly seems to come to life.
I must confess that I am a very green novice when it comes to stargazing. Even so, I am often amazed at the deep knowledge and appreciation that many folks have for gazing into the nighttime sky. They can use their little charts and pick out clusters of stars that only serve to boggle my mind.
I once spent some time with a serious stargazer who had a very high powered telescope that he had made. The scope was so powerful, that it had a motor that actually moved the field of view as the star would be moving across the sky. Without the motor, a viewer can focus on a particular star and by the time another observer peered into the scope the star would be out of view. It was amazing!
I also remember once laying near a campfire staring straight up into the sky looking for satellites and other debris. Once your eyes adjusted to the darkness of the sky, it was amazing how many objects were constantly in motion above our heads. To point out our finds, we would direct a flashlight into the sky serving as a pointer to aid the others in seeing what we were seeing.
Even though the modern sportsman does not have a need to navigate using the stars, it is important to point out that many of our migratory game birds are said to adjust their internal compasses based on the alignment and location of the stars. I’m not quite sure how researchers ever were able to discover this connection, but I find it interesting how the sky can possibly serve this function.
The next time you are out, whether it is hunting or just outside taking a break, take a second look at what you are seeing in the night sky. There’s a fascination between the sky and man this is undeniable.
© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.