One of the more extraordinary things a person can do is look through a telescope and see the rings of Saturn.
If you look at the stars and planets without a telescope, all you see are little, fuzzy points of light.
Look at them with a telescope (unless it is an extremely good one) and all you will see are big, fuzzy points of light.
Look at Saturn, however, and you will see rings – and suddenly you will become aware that you are looking at a world out there – a world that is very different from the one we live on and one that is very, very far away.
The experience is similar in many ways to finding the fossils pictured on page A12. There, during a trip to the hills near Little Fort, we found the fossilized remains of bivalves called Minotis, an index fossil for the Triassic period.
Saturn is about 1.3 billion km (800 million miles) from Earth at its closest. The Triassic period was 200 to 250 million years ago.
If you look at Saturn and see its rings, or if you hold a fossil in your hand that is a fifth to a quarter of a billion years old, you start to get a feeling for how big and how old this Universe is.
You start to get a feeling that maybe this science stuff isn’t just made up by a bunch of eggheads in white lab coats.
Wells Gray Country services committee once again plans to hold a Star Gazing Festival. This year’s event will be at Trophy Mountain Buffalo Ranch (20 km up the road to Wells Gray Park from Clearwater) on Thursday, Aug. 9.
With a little luck, the night will be clear and you’ll be able to see Saturn’s rings – and maybe some other astronomical wonders that will make you think.
With a little more luck, maybe the wolves in Wells Gray Park will be looking at the stars too, and maybe we’ll hear them howl.