I grew up on books about space, watching Cosmos as it first aired, so I've always been an enthusiast. But apart from observing the Moon or Saturn with a small telescope, space was something you saw in a glossy photo, or on your TV screen.
Then in 1985 my family moved out west to New Mexico, and in a few months I found myself part of a Scout troop and hiking in the Pecos Wilderness above Santa Fe. I knew that the skies would be a lot darker than they were back east, or even at our home in Albuquerque, but nothing prepared me for what I saw.
A cloudless, moonless night rewarded me with the Milky Way in all it's glory, stretched nearly horizon to horizon, so bright it cast shadows, so bright you could almost read by it. That was the moment when I truly understood the majesty and the scale of the universe in which our tiny Earth revolves, and I stayed up nearly all night. Awestruck.
No photograph can do that experience justice, but our friends at the Astronomy Picture of the Day come so very close so often, and the picture for this story is credited to them and their sources!
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