I love the night sky. I used to worry that I’d be sent to bed before it was dark enough for me to go look at all those stars. We had a wonderful tree in the backyard and if you climbed to just the right spot you could see a good portion of the night sky. The best, though, the very best, was laying on my back in the grass and staring at the moonless sky. I felt like I could fall into that vast, sparkling bowl of space.
I suppose it was a matter of course that I became an astronomer. While at university in one of my graduate courses I was given the chance of a lifetime; to try out a new observation method. The trial was to set to start on a Monday morning. For some reason I was put through a series of physical and psychological tests. Whatever they found seemed satisfactory. It was only then that I met the lead investigator on the team, Dr. Farrington. He explained that I had shown a real aptitude for spotting unusual formations among the star fields.
For the next few days I studied Hubble films and was instructed to select two or three locations that I felt would be interesting to explore. No problem there! As a student I had, of course, seen some of the raw footage from the Hubble. No, it isn’t as beautiful as the published photographs. Those are rendered using various types of lenses and a means of coloring for the prevalent chemicals and elements within a formation. The pictures are enhanced, but they convey what is there in a way that the human eye can interpret. I was being handed a travel brochure covering the universe and asked where I wanted to go. Eventually I narrowed my choices to three.
Late in the evening of the fifth day I was lead into a darkened room and asked to sit in a really comfortable recliner. This was lowered and I was fitted with something like a virtual reality helmet, but this seemed much more complicated. I was told to relax and that the experiment would begin shortly.
Presently I noticed that I could see through the visor. I watched as a large door opened to the night sky. Apparently I was inside of a new kind of telescope. One that would let me see directly what we had only seen through telescopes since they were first invented. I was spell bound. Dictating as I has been taught I spoke of all I could see. The longer I looked in any one direction the more became clear. I felt as though I could reach out and touch the nearest stars! Bathed in unending star light I fell silent and wandered in my mind’s eye visiting favorite wonders and finding new ones.
Far, far away I could hear someone calling me. They couldn’t be serious! Not so soon! Focusing again on the sights before me I let the voices fade away.
Dr. Farrington stepped back into the hospital room. It had been more than 30 days since he had first fitted the Stargazer Visor on the student’s head. Initially there had been a constant stream of chatter for the tapes and the observers. Descriptions of known and unknown formations; locations of where to look for new, unexplained phenomena. Enough to keep astronomers busy for months. Then she had fallen silent. Her heart rate had slowed to almost hibernation state and she had stopped reporting. They called her, tried to awaken her without startling her, they had sedated her carefully and removed the visor, and still no response. Her eyes were fixed at some point directly above and she would not respond. The Stargazer was not “coming back.”