Are you happy? Jackie Cottram, amateur astronomer

I'd been making do with binoculars and I couldn't see what I wanted to see. I had a birthday coming up, which was a good excuse, but I knew nothing about telescopes. I bought a sturdy Russian one and was terrified setting it up for the first time. I'd look through it, panic when I saw black and realise the cap was on. The back door soon got scarred from where I'd rush out, banging the stand behind me.

At first I knew only the major constellations. Now I see new stars being born, old stars dying, all of science out there. I think of the distances and start to feel small and insignificant, but that's not a bad thing. Worries fade to insignificance. Beauty is revealed. I defy anyone to look at Saturn and not be moved.

I'm way off being finished with the moon. It's a challenge to find things even on the common old moon. I'll get a nice dark Monday night with the bellringers practising at the church nearby and the odd stray cat in the backyard. I'll be at peace with the world. All the little niggles are gone because I'm out there in space. You get a feel for the movement of the earth, the movement out in space, and a deep feeling of awe. I can get my husband out when Saturn's looking wonderful or if I've found a new galaxy, but this is my thing.

When I stop worrying about minor things, I am happy. I'm a worrier. I can get in a palaver about something that doesn't need to be worried over. I'm happy, but sometimes I forget I am. The stars, the night sky and the moon help me to remember.

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