Oct/Nov 2009 Spotlight

Amateur Astronomy

by Heather Styka

Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona


Amateur Astronomy

In grade school, I avoided displaying my knowledge
of dark matter and particle accelerators, betraying
my father, who had taught me such things
during bike rides past Fermilab.

When I visit, he comes up from the basement
with piles of tapes: late-night PBS specials
on black holes, supernovae. I analyze
the voice, spewing data with movie-trailer
intonation, background music littered with
augmented triads, those unnerving sounds
that belong behind old silent films,
organ cueing villains or asteroids.

My father drives off at ungodly hours
in search of dark, open fields, telescope
buckled up in the back seat of his truck.

When he brings me with him, we see
different skies. He was weaned on
too much Star Trek or Bradbury,
navigates with a red pocket flashlight
and a star map. He says Andromeda
is the nearest galaxy to earth.
I remind him that she is Cassiopeia's daughter.


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