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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42 responses to “Ireland – Star Gazing – by Allison Brennhofer. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports”
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This is a beautiful article. Thank you for sharing this amazing experience with us. I also consider myself a city girl, but like you pointed out I do not think there is anyone that could help being in awe when presented with such wonders of nature. It is unfortunate that we have lost a part of this in some places due to light pollution, but I think it can help us appreciate and understand what we have. There is so much beauty in the world that we must sometimes get out of our way to witness.
Thanks for sharing, Allison. While you are a city girl, I definitely am not. One of the things I miss most about my little hometown is being able to see the stars almost every night. I didn’t notice I had missed them until I went home for the first time after being away at college. They almost appeared brighter since I had not seen them in months. I love looking at the stars too. My grandparents even bought me an expensive telescope when I was younger so that I could see the stars even clearer. It is amazing to think about how much space there is that we don’t know anything about. It’s also cool that no matter where you are on Earth, you can look up and see the stars as long as it is dark enough and clear enough.
I am happy that you are connecting to your new home in a unique way! I’m sure it has to be difficult to transition from the cities to a quaint town in Ireland off the Atlantic coast. I have found a similar fascination with the stars in the sky over the course of my childhood and early adulthood. The summer nights in the middle of nowhere might cause you to feel alone in your immediate surrounding, but in a way, it connects you to everyone else in the world that happens to stare in the same direction you are: up, at something larger than yourself. I hope you continue to enjoy your semester in Ireland and have many more adventures that push the comfort zone but have a simple and great ending.
Way to go for stepping out of your comfort zone and going to a small town across the ocean! That sounds like a new and exciting experience. I myself am from a small town in northern Minnesota so I can see how some of the more rural aspects of life are a little strange or unusual. I like what you said at the end about appreciating things like this now that you are a little older. Sometimes we have to be older or go far away from home to appreciate things that are probably in our own backyard.
I have spent a couple nights looking in awe at the stars before, but I have never really learned what the constellations are, besides the dippers because I think most parents point that out to you when you’re a little kid at some point. It always a good idea to take time and relax in our busy everyday lives and looking at the stars at night is a great way to do so. It’s a nice thing of your uncle to show you stars and space stuff growing up because that’s always a fascinating subject no matter how old we get. Thanks for sharing.
I really enjoyed reading this article, because I love nature. There is something special about being in a new place and experiencing the different nature there. Looking at the stars in different places, even thought they are the same stars, is always a different experience. I think it is meaningful and beautiful wherever you are. I have always been fascinated with space and I think that the starry night sky is filled with so many things we have talked about this semester including story-telling, myths, and art. The way people interpret the sky differ between cultures, but they are similar at the same time.
I loved the realness of this article. I think that the constellations and the moon are things that often bring us to places that we wish we could be. It also in our minds connects us with the people we wish we were with because you can imagine that they are somewhere else, looking at the same moon and stars that you are. Being in another country, I feel like it would connect me to my home and family.. make me miss them. Being in a new place makes us more aware of our surroundings I think, so being surrounded by the stars makes us feel like we have never seen the stars like that before.
I enjoyed the fact that you were able to make comparisons between the type of environment you were used to back home, and the environment you are currently living in. It is amazing how once place is home, but then you travel to a new place and realize that you can sometimes consider other places ‘home’ as well. I am not familiar with tide patterns, is it normal for the tide to be high in the evening, and then low during the day? I think that having a night to just relax by the water, and star-gaze is a great way to clear your mind. I also believe that being in a new place makes it easier to do so. I hope you have more opportunities to find moments like these to enjoy your time abroad!
Thank you for sharing your story, Allie! It is amazing that one single trip can change your perspectives you didn’t even know you had. Each one of us is different in enjoying the city life or a country life. They are much different and a person can think that the sun, stars, and moon are the same where ever they go. This, as you have already said it, is not true. The nature above the clouds can be more enjoyable in different places. You mentioned light pollution. This is a very good point to a change in our world where we are becoming attached to the things surrounding us and tend to forget the beauty above us. It is wonderful to hear that you took the time to go out of your comfort zone, look up, and enjoy Earth’s beauty and what is beyond the Earth.
I’m with you on just laying outside look at the sky and all the bright stars that shine. At night time, when looking up at the sky, it just gives me the chills because it’s just so crazy to me to think of what the galaxy looks like and just imagine what it would be like to be in outer space. It just amazes me with the advanced technology we have that allows us to be able to actually see what’s beyond planet earth. Great article!
Thank you, Allison, for sharing your amazing experience and I totally get when you say you are a city girl because I can say that I am with you on that level. On that note, congrats on going out of your comfort zone to capture this experience. The picture is so amazing but I cannot imagine how it felt to experience it in person like you said taking in the view. Yes, we are also known to appreciate things more when we get older because we know how priceless things can be in life. Also about the pollution, I do not agree, but I do think the lack of the stars may have to do with the location per the earth’s stance at a time.
This is an extremely fascinating read for me, because star gazing is one of my favorite activities. As a child I to grew up in the city, more for my dads job versus any of us actually wanting to live their. My family is all outdoorsman who love to hunt and hike, and go on new adventures. It is because of this that I have become more comfortable with being alone in the woods, then being surrounded by city folks. When I look up at the sky at my up north house, it helps me to remember how big of a world this is, and how small I am, and it brings comfort to me. It is amazing how something as simple as staring at the stars makes someone feel inspired and comforted.
The visual you provided us is absolutely beautiful! I had always been fascinated with outer space and constellation ever since I was young. Star glazing is one of my favorites activities to do in the summer. In my opinions, star glazing is a form of meditation because it relaxes me whenever I am in any stressful situation. I also, believe that stars reminds us how small we really are compared to the universe. Since we are in a fast place society, the act of star glazing can actually make a person slow down to breathe in the fresh air and reflect on their life. I wish I had the opportunity that you had to see the stars up close in one of the most beautiful country. Thank you for sharing your amazing adventures with all of us!
This was a very intriguing article to read! I am from a very small town (around 1,200 people) with very little light pollution. I see the stars all the time! This was one thing that I really struggled with when I first moved to Duluth for college. One of the things that made me the most homesick, oddly enough, was not the four and a half hour distance between me and my family, but the lack of stars in the sky. I grew up laying on my patio by the lake and looking up at the countless stars in the sky or going to my boyfriend’s farm and laying on the grass by the barn and looking at even more stars than I could see in town. It was very interesting for me to read about the perspective of stars from someone who has lived in a city their whole lives. Being unable to count the stars in the sky with always be one of my favorite things about living in a small town. And one of the things I am planning on moving back for.
Stars are probably the one part of our world that astounds me every time. There is nothing quite like looking off into the vast number of stars, and thinking about how small we really are. I often take trips to the boundary waters where the stars are often very stunning. I am also pretty used to cities, but getting out into nature is like a whole new beautiful world. Man made things are just never quite as stunning as the natural world before us.
Some of my absolute favorite things to see when out exploring would be the stars, large bodies of water, mountains, and the sunset or sunrise. I can relate to your reaction because I was also so amazed when I went backpacking and saw so many stars. I bet your view was even more magical because of the lack of lights in the area. Nature gives us amazing sights to see and beautiful things for free. I’m glad you were able to experience such a magical sight. One day I would also like to just lay under the sand and stare up into the sky. Thank you for sharing such a nice story!
Your description and trip were fascinating to read. I am so jealous of your experience as I have never seen anything that bright and clear before. Last summer, I got the chance to go to California with my boyfriend’s family and we went camping. As it darkened and as I sat high on the mountain tops, the stars were just as beautiful as you described. Your story is an example of how humans are complex. Our minds are wired to always want more and more of something. We say we are happy with the way things are but the truth is that our desires often take over us. All in all, wonderful essay and thank you for sharing!
Thanks for sharing Allie. It’s funny that you posted this at this time, because I just got back from spring break where I spent many nights star gazing. I live in a small rural town where there are few lights and a lot of open corn fields, so many clear nights were spent sitting outside looking at stars. To me, star gazing is something I’ve been doing all my life so it’s fun to read your experience as someone who does not necessarily do this at home all the time. Even ‘city girls’ can enjoy some open spaces! Cheers!
I really enjoyed reading this article and found it relatable in a couple of ways. I am from a suburb right outside of the Twin Cities and also enjoy going downtown and being around all the people and enjoying all the activities the city has to offer. I am not sure what i enjoy more though because I also like being at the lake and enjoying the peace and quite a lot. I am always amazed at how many more stars you can see when you aren’t in the city. A couple of years ago I went to the boundary waters and I still remember being amazed by the stars and how many there were that lit up the sky. Like you said it was your first time seeing a shooting star, my trip to the boundary waters was the first time i saw the northern lights. I remember it being very peaceful as we sat in our canoes on the lake and laid back and watched the sky for about an hour. It is great to be able to reflect on moments of peacefulness especially when everything in life seems so hectic.
I can for sure relate to your feelings of the stars! I live in the country and absolutely love it. I live in what people call the middle of no where. With this luguery I have grown up looking at the stars. I enjoy the night more than the day because of the beautiful sky at night. I do not understand the different figures that are represented by the stars other than the Big Dipper, but I enjoy looking at the multitudes of there brightness shining through the dark sky.
I can imagine the stars are beautiful! I’m from a small town in NE Wisconsin and it always seems like the stars are so much brighter there than here in Duluth. It really is something to walk outside and have it seem not quite so dark because of how bright the starts are shining! I remember driving home late at night with my mom and she would always point out the constellations to me and tell me the stories behind them. Hopefully you can enjoy the bright stars for a few more months before heading back to Saint Paul!
This is such a beautifully written article! I myself grew up near the city and understand exactly what you talk about with light pollution, restaurant convenience, etc. But, there is something so uniquely wonderful about nature and the sky, especially at night. I appreciate the stars almost as much as you do, and I also have a deep love for the moon and it’s ever changing state. I think nature provides the opportunity for perspective and appreciation, when I studied abroad I found a new appreciation and view of mountains much like you have with stars. One thing I like to think about is that no matter where you are in the world, the moon and stars are always there to see, and even further, every civilization that has existed could probably tell you a thing or two about the moon and stars.
I think it’s really great that you were able to slow down and relish the moment that you were in. I also think it’s interesting that you relate this back to your childhood and spending time with your family. In my history class, we talk a lot about rituals, and I got a sense of that in your tidbit about Star Trek and your family. It’s nice that you are seeing the benefits to a place that you are not used to being in, but also holding your hometown to your heart. Even though you aren’t moving to Ireland (I think), you are still getting a little taste of what it’s like to be away from home, and how that can be painful and beautiful at the same time.
It seems like you are really enjoying yourself in a setting that you would have never imagined yourself in. That’s what is amazing about life, is that some of the best things come out of the unexpected. I can only imagine the view you were able to see in those short thirty minutes, but it seems like it was one of the best half hour’s of your life. I believe that one of the best views you can have is looking up at the sky and being able to see starts for miles all around you. I hope your time in Ireland continues to be absolutely wonderful.
I too enjoy the city life, in fact when I am in the city, I never want to leave.There is always something going on and you never seem to be bored or tired. All of that is great, but nothing is better than laying out in a field or by a lake or and ocean in a rural area and looking at the stars. For as long as I can remember, I have loved stargazing. I used to live in the city and the lights were always too bright so the stars were hidden. When I moved to the countryside, I found that I enjoyed looking at the stars more than ever. Something about the darkness makes the stars twinkle a little more. I really enjoyed your story as it made me think of home. Thank you for sharing it with us.
I think that staring out across a vast ocean has the same effect on me as gazing at the stars has on you. Both experiences can prompt us to realize how small and significant we really are in the world. They can also put our worldly troubles into perspective. Coming from a city myself, I love gazing out at Lake Superior. It’s calming and there can be times where I can reflect on things. I liked what you said about it taking being somewhere so dramatically different from home for you to really see things that you have had access to before; I agree, I’ve had access to rivers, lakes, and oceans. But perhaps you become more appreciative when you’re so far away from home. A great piece to reflect on!
I’m sure that even that high quality photo doesn’t do what you experienced justice. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to see the sky like that. My grandparents live in the woods far from city lights, and you can see a lot of stars, but not nearly as many as what you’ve shown. It makes me wish I didn’t live in such a densely populated area sometimes. Then again, those few times that we do get to experience those escapes are much more special!
This was fun to read, yeah, we have stars here in Minnesota, but it is amazing how much we take for granted when we don’t even realize it. It is so cool that you are experiencing these things for the first time and taking in all the beauty that was present before, but it seems you are coming to appreciate them more. Thanks for sharing!
Ally, another great post! That must have been quite the change for you from moving from a highly populated area like St. Paul to a town of 800 people, not to mention a completely different country too. I think it is interesting and cool that you and your group get to stay in cottages. It is amazing how much light pollution we have in the Twin Cities and Duluth as well and don’t even realize. My grandparents live on a farm in rural Minnesota and when I was younger my cousins and I’s favorite thing to do was lay out in the yard at night and see the millions of stars in the sky. We often would see a handful of shooting stars and satellites as well. I imagine star gazing on the beach must have been such a surreal experience. Enjoy the rest of your time abroad!
I know exactly the feelings you’re talking about here, Allie. The entire time I was reading this article, I kept thinking back to summer nights at the family cabin, laying face-up on the dock and marveling at the clarity of the rural sky and waiting patiently for shooting stars to pop in sight. Even if you are a ‘city girl,’ as you call yourself, I firmly believe that we as people have an innate connection to the universe, be it spiritual or otherwise; moments like these are evidence of this. There is something about experiences like this in particular that is incredibly humbling, too. The fact that we are a part of something so huge and vast- the understanding that what we see is only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of what exists- puts our lives into perspective, really reminding us to not take ourselves so dang seriously. Thank you so much for this wonderful post, and I hope the stars were worth every second of evening chill!
Allison, thank you for sharing this story. There is truly something special about star gazing on a beach with close friends. This past summer I had a similar experience in the Porcupine Mountains in Northern Michigan. I was assistant coaching at a ski camp and we would hike from cabin to cabin in the Porcupine Mountains. One night we stayed in a cabin that was 100ft from the shore of Lake Superior. The night before our last day, we laid on the rocky beach and gazed at the stars for at least an hour. We all wish we could have laid longer, but with an early morning and time trial the next day, we had to get to bed. Staring at those stars was also one of the coolest views I have ever seen. It really made me realize how large our universe is with tons of stars, planets, and galaxies.
I get where you are coming from, city life or country life? I think this is one of my favorite post to far because I feel you make a great point. When given the opportunity to experience something so beautiful you have to take it. To see the full potential of something to natural and so stunning is well worth your time. On a different note, I enjoyed how you described how it felt laying on the cold stone rock. How you separated yourself form the rest of the world and felt zen. How your friends had to make sure you weren’t sleeping or dead, classic. All together, great post. I loved it.
Thank you for sharing your experiences in Ireland so far. See I have lived in Duluth my entire life and I always consider it to be the perfect city because it isn’t too big but it also isn’t a small town. Duluth is also perfect when it comes to star gazing. I remember being around the age of 9 or 10 and getting a telescope I was able to see tons of stars just from the deck of my house. I agree with you star gazing can be the most peaceful thing on nice cool summer nights. Though we are most likely looking at the same stars I feel that the environment that you are in also changes the mood of the experience. From what I read it sounds like an awesome memory. Great Article!
This story you have shared is absolutely beautiful. Do you think that peering at the stars connected you back home a little? Or gave you a piece of nostalgia mixed with the new? I grew up in small-town Lake Nebagomon, WI before I moved to the city of Superior when I was 15. Although Superior is most definitely smaller than Saint Paul, it felt quite a bit larger to me coming from a school class of a little less than 100 students and becoming a part of a 300+ class of students. My favorite part of living “in the middle of nowhere” next to the woods was that I had full access to the stars almost every night growing up. I would lay on my trampoline and gaze at the dome-shaped sky for hours. I always had the sensation of realizing just how very small I was and how little my world was, but then I felt like I was a part of something greater. It was always the best time to reflect and think. Every now and then, though, it was nice to lay in wonder of the view and reach a level of inner-silence. It was nice to let the quiet in. Did you find other memories or profound thoughts cross your mind, or was it a great time of inner-silence for you? Perhaps it was a mix of both?
Thank you for sharing this wonderful story! I can definitely relate to being a little uncomfortable in a small town setting. I grew up in a very large city and that’s what I’m used to so I feel very out-of-place in small towns. I can also relate to being fascinated with stars and space. For me, imagining how big space is and how tiny we are in comparison is what intrigues me the most. One of my favorite summer activities is laying on the dock at my cabin at night and looking up at the stars. There is hardly any light pollution there so the stars are extremely bright. I hope the rest of you trip goes well!
Hi Allison, thanks for sharing your beautiful experience. I feel your thoughts of being a city person and then feeling almost culture shock as you hit a rural, small town. I really was intrigued by you stargazing experience because it is something that not everyone would mark up as a highlight from their study abroad. I hope that when you come back to Minnesota that you will be able to find a great place to stargaze, even though it won’t be as good! Cheers to your adventures!
I understand what you mean, it is hard being a city girl and living in a place that is way smaller than what you are used to. That’s what Duluth has been for me, a super small town which has both cons and pros to living in it. I would have loved to be there gazing at all of the stars laying on a rock while listening to the waves crashing into the rocks. I can’t imagine how amazing the stars might have looked as in a place with such a small population the light pollution would have been extremely small. I wish I knew the constellations just like your friends do and honestly I wish that I could have a similar experience with shooting star and everything. In Colombia, I don’t get to see the stars due to the light pollution unless I am in a place that is extremely isolated usually by the coastal regions in which the population seems to be smaller. I am completely jealous and I wish that I could be there exploring Ireland with you as well as getting the opportunity to appreciate sights I don’t get to see often. It is the rarity of certain events that make them the more special and the more beautiful.
Stars have always held my interest, probably because like you i never was able to see to many of them in the cities. I never really thought to much about what i can see, just that i knew they are up there. But recently i was able to take time and look and i feel like i had the similar feeling, because it was just amazing to me. One of my hopes is to find a place where i can just gaze in to the sky and see the stars everywhere. Its the small things that mean a lot when you have grown up with out them
Thank you for sharing this story! I really enjoyed reading about your group’s experience of going to the beach to stargaze! I am fairly used to living out of town enough to see the stars. Being able to go outside with a telescope and look at constellations with my dad when I was a kid, especially in the summer, are treasured memories of mine. He’ll still point out planets and stars to me when I’m home and we happen to be outside at night, but it has been a long time since I have just gone stargazing. Your story makes me want to go again sometime soon!
The way this is written gave me chills and I was able to visual an experience similar to this. It is interesting for me because I am equally awestruck by the starry night sky and the twinkling city lights. I wonder if I am impressed by the city skyline because it reminds me of the stars. Possibly I am drawn towards both because I live in a suburb where stars and city lights are not commonly seems in an impressive amount. There is something amazing about the stars and night sky that has been important to many different peoples, cultures, and practices throughout history. It would be interesting to know if this town in Ireland or Ireland in general has any mythical or religious connections to the night sky.