It’s not all it’s cracked up to, be writes MONICA ZWOLSMAN
When my husband Number Three (that’s another story, darlings!) fell under the stargazing spell last year our family life changed. We’d been pottering through life with our two small boys. I’d been whingeing about feeling trapped by marriage … as we women do.
Next thing, I come home to find a massive telescope set up in the backyard.
“My darling,” says Hubby. “To prove my love, I’m giving you the moon and the stars.”
A normal husband might have booked his weary wife – who would have preferred diamonds – a trip to Melbourne or Adelaide. Not mine.
He’d always wanted a telescope. He knew I’d FREAK at the expense. So he did this sales pitch under a cloak of romantic illusion.
Before I could object, he made me look through the lens at the brightest, biggest moon I’d ever seen, brought so close I felt I could reach out and touch its luminosity. We started looking at all the planets, and were thrilled at sightings of Mars.
Week two and the boys started saying things like: “I love you as high as the Cloud of Magellan.”
Week three and not only could I recognize the Southern Cross, I could point towards Alpha Centauri, and even find the direction of the Swan Nebula. I knew the difference between a black hole and a vortex.
By week four, the boys and I had grown bored with it all, but the stars had consumed my husband. Astronomy magazines festooned the loo along with maps of the night sky.
He spent evenings poring over astronomy sites, enjoying long online conversations with more experienced fanatics. Soon, he went from focusing manually to hunt down stars to getting a “Go To” system. Then he linked everything to his laptop and got the computer to track stuff for him. He navigated via remote control. We toured the sky thanks to the computer programme with Hubby giving commentaries as the telescope whirred its way through its space paces.
Then he started imaging. He sneaked in the purchase of an expensive camera. He said he got it cheap on eBay. Hah! Words like Stacking and Processing and Noisy Colour were thrown about. Now I hear talk of him trading in his telescope for a better deep space variety.
If it’s cloudy, Hubby becomes gloomy. He checks into a range of weather sites many times a day, especially in the run up to a moonless weekend.
Then he hauled us off to astronomy camps in the Australian outback where we’d have to skulk around in the pitch dark aided only by infrared flashlights. Most sites are in the flat, dry and dusty back of beyond, far from bright city lights or even small village lights. Just black night skies with 10 zillion stars and planets and nebulas and dark holes. And flies. And crows. And mosquitoes. And flies. And mosquitoes.
These excursions are great for Hubby with so many other astronomers to share ideas and technological tips, but they’re far from fabulous for me. Dinner has to be done and cleared by 5pm. As soon as night falls, the kids want to sleep. Since there might be monsters in the dark they don’t let me out of the camper trailer. But come daybreak when the boys have opened their eyes and screaming mouths, I’m forced to go for a long, long drive around nowhere because the astronomers have to sleep until noon.
I put my foot down. No more excursions.
Hubby resolved that problem by leaving me at home. At least once a month, when the moon is but a toenail sliver, I become an astronomy widow as he heads over to the dark side. Yay!