A unique—and splendid—mix of astronomy and personal journey.
Well into adulthood, newcomer Calia resumes a youthful obsession with stargazing that begins with an attempt to decipher the constellations and ends up with his building an observatory in his Connecticut backyard. The result of this twilight obsession is, over the course of a yearlong search, a delightful rediscovery of the vastness of space coupled with a celebration of the countless people who charted the galaxies and unraveled the mysteries of planets, stars, comets and asteroids. While most of his friends and family fail to share enthusiasm for the subject, it is hardly a lonely odyssey, since Calia feels a kinship with a millennium’s worth of fellow stargazers. Despite a repeated insistence that he’s just an amateur, Calia drops steady reminders that many of the most important astronomy discoveries were charted and confirmed by so-called nonprofessionals. Indeed, he shares common ground with a great many innovators, from the anonymous Druids who created Stonehenge to the Kansas farmer-turned-Pluto discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh. Also in the mix is the inspirational guidance of Calia’s mother, a serious astrology enthusiast who always encouraged her son’s telescope viewing. Calia never uncovers new planets or comets, but he joyfully rediscovers the endlessly absorbing mystery of space and the hypnotic lure of the constellations. His excitement for the subject is contagious, and his humor in describing the mysteries of space is ebullient: the mighty constellation Ursa Major is “also a mother” because of little Ursa Minor tagging alongside, while the galaxies M81 and M82 are like Felix Unger and Oscar Madison of The Odd Couple because of the former’s tightly wound composition and the latter’s seemingly sloppy sprawl across the heavens.
Astronomy was never so much fun.