At the start of every year I promise myself that this spring I will head out onto the South Downs late one evening and actually see the Milky Way. Light pollution: there are still certain spots on the Downs where it's actually dark enough to see the galaxy that we are a part of. To look up and look through the lurid gassy wilds of our home. Maybe with a Thermos of something because it's probably quite chilly.
I have never done this. Last year I was particularly eager to, having read Gary Filde's thrilling memoir An Astronomer's Tale, charting his life from a bricklayer to a navigator of the stars. But still: I don't drive. The buses stop. I have duties at home that involve getting a daughter to bed and all that jazz. One day.
One thing we did do last year was go out into the back garden with binoculars on an evening that we were told Jupiter was very close. Relatively speaking, anyway. Close enough to see as a disk through a good pair of lenses. We definitely found the right bright spot in the sky, and I looked through the binoculars and saw a pearly orb, gently lined. A silver ornament, nothing like the great 1970s wallpaper planet that I was expecting. I still don't know if I really saw the bands of Jupiter or a reflection of my own eyelashes in something distant and out of focus.
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