The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
It has been over 40 years since a warm July night in 1967 that I remember very well and the quote above is why.
For a few years I’d owned a telescope, not large but a good, basic instrument. Many hours were spent using it to study everything in the sky. My favorite objects were the globular clusters. And a favorite among favorites was M13, the ‘Great Globular in Hercules’ (photo above).
As I checked a few objects that night I realized that the sky conditions were extraordinary for that time of year and superb for any time. Not long before I’d purchased an expensive, powerful eyepiece but near perfect skies were needed to make it useful. That’s what I had that night.
Moving the ‘scope to the right spot, I found M13 in a low-power eyepiece and gasped at what I saw. I’d never seen it look so large–nearly as big as a full moon. Slipping the high power eyepiece into place and taking a look was an experience I cannot forget, nor do I wish to. Even now as I type this, there’s a tingle along my spine but that’s a faint echo of the emotional impact I felt that night as I looked into the core of that cluster of hundreds of thousands of stars. Somehow, it felt like I was seeing the face of God.
Albert’s “…pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe…” is perfect. That night my eyes were open and I was alive.