After Big Bend, we drove into the nothingness of west Texas as far as Fort Davis. On a whim, we decided to visit the McDonald observatory shortly after settling in on our first night. The sky was clear and even as the vanishing sun still backlit the mountains, the stars were strikingly bright.
Upon arriving at the observatory, we surreptitiously scored a few of the last remaining tickets for that evening’s Star Party and waited patiently as night consumed the last moments of day. With soft red lights guiding us, so as not to hinder our dark-adaptation, we made our way to the outdoor viewing area. Shadows merged into nothingness with darkness permeating the air and nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I looked up. The night sky unfolded in layers above me, stars magically appeared with each passing moment. The glowing balls of fire boasted a spectrum of blues and reds and whites, beaming their ancient light in all directions. The sky appeared to pulse and the longer I looked, the more I could see. The Milky Way was distinct and glorious, a reminder that we are part of an enormous, rotating cosmic disc of star stuff. When it became darker still, the Zodiacal Light materialized and humbly offered a sense of direction in the black abyss. There was an eloquent astronomer in the center, speaking into a microphone while using a laser pointer to identify constellations and clusters with ease, but I couldn’t spare any attention for information - I was transfixed and completely captivated by the bounty of infinite darkness. And just like that, I surrendered my smallness to the universe.