The Stars Shine at Our Little House

Susan, you are the winner of the one-year subscription to Mother Earth News! Please email me at fivecoat@ozarkmountains.com with your full name and snail mail address by 5 p.m. CST on Monday, August 30! Congratulations and thank you, everyone, for a great first year at Living Large!

One of the first things I noticed when we moved to Our Little House was how many stars there are in the night sky here.

There’s just as many in the city of course, you just can’t see them.

I’m the type of star geek who, when I saw the movie, “Titanic,” didn’t think about how cold and terrifying it must be for the character, Rose, floating on a piece of wreckage in the middle of the Atlantic.

I was thinking about how many stars she must have been able to see in that kind of darkness in 1912 while she was lying on her back singing, “Come Josephine in my Flying Machine.”

My love for the night sky began while growing up in Turner. In the 1960s, light pollution hadn’t overtaken the night sky yet and I would sit on the patio with my parents in lounge chairs and they would point out the different shapes in the stars and of the Milky Way.

When our good friends, Mike and Charlotte came for a visit a few weeks ago, I asked them, “Did you happen to look up at the sky on your way back to the studio last night?” They gave me a strange look, “No, what was up there?” Charlotte asked.

“The stars, there’s so many of them.” I could tell I didn’t impress them. “We can’t see them in the city?” they asked.

Dale and I had just watched a documentary on the stars. We learned that there’s a rating system to measure the darkness of the night sky and there’s only two places left on earth – in one spot of the Australian outback and the middle of South Africa – that is dark enough to be able to see the exact sky Galileo saw when he was alive.

Light pollution was one of the first environmental stories I worked on before I called myself an environmental journalist. I wrote a story for a weekly in Kansas City about how a BMX racing operation wanted to build a track very close to an observatory in a small town just south of the Kansas City area.

Volunteers with the observatory argued the lights would minimalize their viewing and dust could harm their telescope.

The BMX and city won.

Last summer, we brought Dale’s sister and her family to the boat dock on the lake where we have a clearer view of the night sky (we have too many trees for a big view here). Even their tween daughter seemed charmed by all of the stars and we were even lucky enough to get to wish upon a shooting star that night.

Star gazing is one of the simple pleasures at Our Little House and sitting on our party deck late at night not only gives me a clearer view of the night sky but helps me clear my head sometimes too.

Do you have a clear view of the night sky or have you even noticed that you can’t see many of the stars anymore?

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28 Responses

  1. Rhonda Mock says:

    Mena AR is one of the most beautiful spots to see the brilliance of the night sky. This month alone, I had a spectacular view of the Perseids, got to see the marvel of the Moon, Jupiter and Venus aligning. All of this by stepping out my door AND without my telescope!….Not the case when I lived in Memphis, even driving 30 miles or so out of town. Of course, there is the Observatory…and idea and a dream that I cannot wait to get off the ground and one of the reasons I moved to Mena….Gotta sell a Winslow Homer painting first. Do any of you know any art collectors?
    When I have doubts or question myself about having made this drastic move, I go outside at night and I’m good again.

    • Kerri says:

      >>>>When I have doubts or ques­tion myself about hav­ing made this dras­tic move, I go out­side at night and I’m good again.<<<

      Right there with you, Rhonda. I so want a telescope!

      • Rhonda Mock says:

        You should absolutely get a telescope, Kerri, and invest in a decent one. It was an amazing night, seeing Saturn through the telescope…all with the understanding that it is approximately 800-900 million miles away from Earth at any given time…….

        I can’t even begin to tell you how that made me feel……It was something else.

        You can Ebay a good telescope…..

        • Kerri says:

          Thanks for the info, Rhonda! It’s definitely on my “want” list. Now, what to get rid of…..there’s a rule one thing in, one thing has to go out! 🙂

  2. Rae says:

    When we visited the Big Island of Hawaii, as we were driving back from a late viewing of the volcano, which just happened to be “live” then, my husband suddenly stopped the car and turned out the lights. We got out and I have NEVER seen so many stars. It was pitch black-because there is NOTHING around there. Our three kids were freaked out until they looked up at the sky-then they were mesmerized. Amazing. We had a hard time leaving! I remember spending summer evenings lying on a neighbors low roof for hours looking at the sky. It was almost disorienting – like being in another world. Now our neighbors have so many lights in the back of their houses you could light up a football stadium!

    • Kerri says:

      Yes, I’m afraid that many children will only be able to feel that “floating” disorienting feeling of looking up at a sky when they’re in a very advanced observatory theater these days.

  3. Kim says:

    I was just marveling the other night… we’ve had such clear nights during this drought, and even on a night with a nearly full moon, here in the middle of this small Ozark town, I could see dozens and dozens of stars. When we lived in downtown Orlando, I was lucky to spot half a dozen or so in the sky.

    You really haven’t experienced a night sky until you’ve been far enough away from “civilization” to be able to make out the white swath of a galaxy in the night sky. Dazzling– and mind-blowing. Great post!

    • Kerri says:

      You’re right, Kim, one thing good about this drought we’re having is the beautiful clear skies we’ve had. Believe it or not, we can see that white swath here sometimes. I saw it maybe a week ago. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the dark on the deck. The stars calm me and being outside makes me feel closer to my Emma right now.

  4. Brandy says:

    I loooove that documentary. Ive watched it on On Demand I think 12x. I was noticing last night the Sky Glow here. I couldnt imagine living in NYC were they were a 9 on the scale. Its never dark there. I enjoy listening to the crickets and watching the stars.

    • Kerri says:

      It is a good documentary, Brandy, if you remember the name of it, could you mention it here? Some other readers might like to see it. I love NYC, when I visit the Big Apple, I’m usually not looking up at the sky. But I’m with you, I would not care to live someplace full time where I can’t feel close to nature, both on earth and in space.

  5. Mary says:

    Sometimes when I take Mickey out for his last late night walk the stars look so clear and close — seems you could reach out and touch them. Where I live is very rural so light pollution is not so bad….but there are so many trees that vision is limited. I grew up in Oklahoma and remember as a child breathtaking views of an unobstructed night sky.

  6. S.A.B.L.E says:

    Stargazing is something I enjoy and try to do often. I live in the country but due to the light pollution from the small town 10 miles away fewer stars are visible. Seeing all of Scorpio is my indicator of the amount of light pollution. I also enjoy moongazing and did so the past few nights. Several puppies joined me but we were careful not to get a moonburn from the bright moon under the excetionally clear skies.

    • Kerri says:

      Moonburn, that is LOL funny, SABLE! 🙂 There has been a big, bright moon these past few nights. The other night, Dale and I had to take the trash and recyclables to the VFD and the view of the moon over one of the mountains and lake was just breathtaking. Being the tree huggers we are, we left too many for big sky viewing right here at the little house that just doesn’t give us those kinds of views. I wish I would have had my camera for that one.

  7. Reader says:

    I am very lucky to live in a place with very little light pollution. As a matter of fact, I was outside a few nights ago and spotted what I was sure was the International Space Station moving across the sky. I did a search on the internet and sure enough, it was! We live in an amazing world.

    • Kerri says:

      Very cool, Reader. I’ve tried going out and seeing the space station when the news announces it’s within view, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.

  8. Susan says:

    Wish we didn’t live in the city were we could enjoy stargazing….the porch lights that people leave on at night light up our bedroom. Really sad…

    • Kerri says:

      I know, Susan. For awhile, we had a neighbor across the road who had one of those big bright industrial lights on from dusk until dawn. We thought about shooting it out quite a few times.

  9. Heather says:

    You’ve reminded me we should stargaze more often. It’s a great way to relax and marvel at the wonders of nature.

    • Kerri says:

      It is very relaxing, Heather. My goal next year is to get a very comfy reclining lounge chair so I can stay out longer!

  10. Alexandra says:

    Light pollution. Love that term. People often do not realize. We have B&B guests from Manhattan who simply sit outside on the bench and admire stars twinkling in the sky, so different at night from the city.

  11. V Schoenwald says:

    I can see stars where my trailer home is located. I have a spot just behind it that is dark and secluded and I have taken a lawn chair and a pair of binoculars and sat back there for a short while,(also making sure a creepy two-legged varmit) isn’t back there either. lol
    I have seen shooting stars, and a few other constillations. When my parents had their cabin at a local lake, Dad would bring out the big telescope and you could see everything. But even up there at this lake now, it has tons of light pollution and traffic and its no longer a spot to see anything but civilization in a negative way.
    Out at our local community college, there is a professor who teaches beginning astrology and star-gazing. When I was taking some college courses, he was set up outside one late afternoon, and had special lenses on these absolutly awesome telescopes that could view the sun with the solar flairs that were happening at that time (2006). The flairs were seen like huge forest fire flames licking space. They were awe-inspiring to see!

    • Kerri says:

      Wow, vicki, I’m sure that was amazing! I’ve never seen the solar flares through a telescope. When I was in college, I began an astronomy course, but it was very heavy with math and that is not my strong suit! They need a hobbyist course or something. I understand there is an astronomy club here and I want to get involved at some point.

  12. Olivia says:

    We are fortunate to be able to see the stars here, too, as we live on an island that is largely rural and fairly sparsely populated. Before we moved back here, however, we were living in Southern Ontario during the Big Blackout that hit much of the Eastern Seabord of Canada and the U.S. a few years ago. Normally, up there, we did not see many stars, but that time, until power was restored, (about a day and a half for us) we could. People who had lived there all their lives were staggered by how many stars there are in the night sky. I think that night was one of the darkest I have ever experienced as power was out over such a vast area.

    • Kerri says:

      I think that many of us who are older and remember a night sky dotted endlessly with stars, don’t realize that many of those stars have disappeared from our view until we see a truly dark sky again. I feel sorry for the younger generations who grew up and are growing up only in cities. They probably believe that those few very bright stars are all that inhabit the vast night sky.