Ireland – Star Gazing – by Allison Brennhofer. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[This photograph was produced by European Southern Observatory (ESO). See: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Where_Heaven_and_Earth_Collide.jpg ]
I am the first to tell anyone that I am completely and utterly a city girl. I’ve always been much more comfortable strolling down the streets of downtown Saint Paul over hiking through the woods or gallivanting through farms and their respective animals. Therefore, I surprised myself completely when I decided to spend three months in a town of 800 people in the countryside of Ireland. It’s been interesting, thus far, and there are definite pros and cons to both locations. I’m not used to there being one main street of shops and restaurants, I am more used to being able to drive ten minutes in any direction of my house and have countless options of where to shop and eat.
Tonight, a group of eight of us were walking back to our cottages from town and noticed how bright the stars were. My roommate suggested walking the ten minutes to the beach to see them even better, at a future time. I, however, was enamored with the idea and begged her and my other roommate to go right that instant. We rounded up the other ladies from our group before they made it back inside their cottages and made our way to the beach. We walked in a huddle of bodies with our phones’ flashlights guiding our steps.
The tide was the highest I’d seen, leaving us maybe ten feet of rocky beach to stand on. I quickly claimed a large rock and laid down on it, feet propped up against a conveniently located rock at the bottom of mine. I lay there for the whole half an hour we stayed out there, eyes locked on the dark sky illuminated by the countless stars. It was similar to but also so much better than those trips my class used to take to the planetarium in elementary school.
Now, I’m sure that I have seen stars that bright and numerous before. My family took a road trip to Mount Rushmore years ago and we spent a week every summer up north in a cabin where I am positive the stars are bright. But looking at the stars tonight, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything that beautiful. My friends called over to me a couple times, to make sure I wasn’t sleeping or dead, because I lay there so silently, taking in the view.
My friends tried to point out constellations to me, such as Orion’s Belt and the Big Dipper (which I saw) and the Little Dipper (which I pretended I saw). I also saw my very first shooting star. I was in disbelief, I had to ask the others if they had seen it too. (They hadn’t, I quickly made a belated wish anyway.)
I think my fascination with stars and space started when I was ten. My uncle came over after work every night for probably a week and showed my siblings and I all six of Star Trek The Original Series and all four of the Next Generation movies. My mom and he had grown up on them and now it was our turn to do the same. I have been hooked on anything and everything related to space exploration since then. In Saint Paul, we’re lucky to see a few stars with all of the light pollution. Here in Ireland, I couldn’t even have begun to count them. Every time I moved my head (carefully, because I jerked it too hard the first time and quickly remembered I was resting on a rock), there were more and more stars to look at.
I know this does not relate specifically to Ireland. I am sure there are many places in Minnesota, let alone the whole United States, where I could see as many stars. Maybe it was that I’m older now, more appreciative of sights that I am not used to. Or maybe it took being somewhere so dramatically different from home for me to really see things that I have had access to before. All I can say is that half hour of being on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, where my fingers were a little numb and my skin probably matched the temperature of the rock I was on, was maybe the most peaceful, reflective half hour of my life to date. I also think this was the first time I’ve actually, seriously loved being in a small town setting. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Louisburgh. I think it is the cutest place I have ever lived and there is something endearing about recognizing everyone who lives there. But I’m used to the hustle and bustle of a city where you can go to high school with twice as many people than live in Louisburgh as a whole. I will be forever grateful to this town for letting me get as close to the stars as I probably ever will.
Allison serves as an editor for The North Star Reports.
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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports. Eleni Birhane and Matthew Breeze, Assistant Managing Editors, The North Star Reports.
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