Contemplating Uranus

Hubby is an avid amateur astronomer… and an alliterative archetype, apparently.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the chance to string together eight A-words without using the word ‘anus’.  We’ll get to that one later.)

Anyhow, Hubby is my go-to guy whenever I spot something in the night sky that intrigues me.  I’m not much of an astronomer – I can spot the Big Dipper and Orion and the North Star, and that’s about it.  So, early in the evening I’d point to a bright dot near the horizon and sing out, “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight…”

And Hubby would say, “That’s not a star, that’s Venus.”


So I learned to say, “Oh, look, there’s Venus!”

Then we got wrapped up in our move, and summer arrived with its long hours of daylight, and we didn’t have much time for stargazing.  But the other night we were sitting beside a little bonfire enjoying a cold beverage and I pointed happily to the bright dot in the southern sky.  “Oh, look, there’s Venus!”

Hubby said, “That’s not Venus, that’s Saturn.”

“Oh.  Where’s Venus?”

“You can’t see it now.  Planets move around, you know.”

“Right, so that explains why you haven’t mentioned Jupiter or Venus lately.  What about Neptune?  And weren’t you talking about seeing Mercury a few years back?”

“Yes, but you can’t see them right now, either.”

Mellowed by beer, my next question slipped out before I even considered it.  “But you never mention Uranus.  Can you ever see Uranus?”  As soon as the words left my mouth, I started to smirk.

In the firelight, Hubby didn’t notice my expression, or maybe he was ignoring it in an attempt to keep the conversation above a third-grade level.  “I saw Uranus the other night,” he replied seriously.

I couldn’t resist a straight line like that.  “Dang, I guess I should have put on some underwear.”

He gave an ‘oh-lord-here-we-go’ eye roll, and I attempted to veer back to the path of maturity by adding, “So what does it look like?  Can you see it with your naked eye?”  (Yes, I said ‘naked’ with a completely straight face.  See, I can act like an adult… for several seconds at a time.)

“No, it’s not very bright.  Even with my telescope, it’s just a fuzzy gray ball.”

I blame the beer.  My moment of maturity vanished without a trace.  “Uranus is gray and fuzzy?  That can’t be healthy.  And you say you can’t see Uranus without a telescope?  How does that even work?  If you have to look in the eyepiece at one end to see your other end, you must be very flexible…”

By this time we were both snickering.

“Yep,” Hubby agreed.  “It’s hard to get a glimpse of Uranus.  I can’t even spot it without help; I have to enter coordinates into my telescope to make it point in the right direction and then I use a computer program to track Uranus…”

“Okay, I’m never gonna turn my back on that telescope again.”

The conversation ended in a blaze of glory… literally.  We spotted a big meteor sailing erratically through the sky shedding sparks, and at that point we lost interest in Uranus… or anyone else’s, for that matter.

But now, inquiring minds want to know:  Have you ever seen Uranus?

30 thoughts on “Contemplating Uranus

  1. I can’t even begin to add anything to top all of these comments….all I can say is my neighborhood is wondering what the heck Kirt is laughing so hard about!! The whole discussion sounds like one of our dinners when I was growing up. My parents both worked at a private college in the 60’s…they thought it would be great to allow some verbal freedom at our dinner table…4 teenagers…3 of them boys….well we took advantage of it and I think had some of the best non intellectual discussions possible… the end of dinner everyones sides hurt from laughing so hard….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your post reminds me that I keep meaning to figure out where the North Star is just in case I’m ever stranded in a strange, barren, wooded, swampy, desert-like, cold, hot place . . . at least I’d be able to see something familiar while I waited to die 🙂 (yes, I spend too much time worrying about worst-case scenarios)


  3. I heard Uranus would be visible for a while. It is hard to resist looking at Uranus from what I understand, but I don’t know exactly where to look. If someone could point me to Uranus I would certainly be thrilled to see it and know what it looks like. Never pictured it as gray and fuzzy, but then I’m no astronomer. At least I have very little light pollution here and it would be easy to see things, even obscure things like Uranus. Or anyone else’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Okay, so many possibilities here. Do I take the high road, or just throw caution to the, er, wind. (See, there it goes already.) I know, I’ll flip a coin. Heads, high road. Tails…well, it oughta be self explanatory, I guess.

    (Flip, catch, look…) Hm. The high road it is. Hooda thunkit?

    When I was in the Army a hunnerd or two years ago, I was a radar operator at a missile base. The tracking antennas had to be ‘verified’ occasionally. The procedure was that an an utterly amazing telescope (with crosshairs, think a hunting rifle scope on crack and steroids) would be clamped into the mounts on the side of the antenna, then the antenna would be cranked around manually until the scope’s crosshairs aligned perfectly on some known landmark. One of the ‘targets’ we used was the pointy peak on the roof of one of those Forest Ranger fire watch lookout stations on top of a mountain that was miles away. The azimuth, elevation, and range of the roof peak were very precise known quantities. That done, the radar was fired up and the corresponding pip on the screen was then zeroed. Done.

    Okay, that was the official (and ONLY authorized) use for those ‘scopes…until all the brass went home after work during ‘maintenance status’ weekends. All the machinery was off, and nobody was around except the guys on guard duty…and the rest of us who were too broke to go anywhere else for the weekend.

    COOL! Drop the inflatable radomes, clamp on those KILLER telescopes, and use the antenna remotes to point it where we wanted to look. Gad, that was fun! Craters of the moon? In your LAP!! Rings of Saturn? Close enough almost to touch. Moons of Jupiter? A ringside seat. (No, that was for Saturn. Sorry.) A gloriously splendid use of taxpayers’ money that was.

    And only got caught once. One of the maintenance warrant officers came out of the fallout shelter for a smoke, and there we were. Busted…

    A happy ending, though. After the obligatory stern lecture about misuse of government property and everything else he could think of, he showed us how to set the controls for more or less automatic tracking. Lots smoother ‘looking’ that way. Clearly not his first rodeo… 🙂

    He even described Uranus as a fuzzy gray ball. I had to bite my tongue to keep from asking him what made him think so. Oops, sorry. High road…

    And ten perthent already? And thikthty perthent plotted? Phabulariouth! Dithtracthions thuck. Right, thithter?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, ten perthent, and I’m hoping for fewer dithtracthions thith week!

      And that’s an awesome story about your telescopes. Wow, so cool to get that level of viewing detail! And hooray for your warrant officer, too – what a standup guy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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