From the March 2024 issue

Winner of the 50th anniversary essay contest announced

The poignant tale of sharing the night sky won our essay contest — and a Celestron telescope.
By | Published: October 16, 2023 | Last updated on March 4, 2024

Throughout Astronomy Magazine’s 50-year history we have covered the gamut of space stories from cosmology to observing. However, we don’t always get to hear about our readers’ own experiences with astronomy except for a few small related to other stories listed in our letters section.

To celebrate the magazine’s half century birthday this past August, we teamed up with the telescope manufacturer Celestron, creating a contest urging those with eyes to the sky to write about their most memorable viewing experiences.

Over 170 letters came in answering the call and we were overjoyed by the response. Participants wrote about seeing Saturn for the first time, unexpectedly sharing their telescopes with strangers, and catching more than few unexplainable nighttime objects.

There were so many great letters sent in, but we could pick only one winner: Vicki Wilson of Clinton, New York. Congratulations and thank you all to those who participated.

She received a Celestron StarSense Explorer 8-inch Smartphone App-Enabled Dobsonian Telescope, worth $799.95.

Below is the winning essay:

The same sky

My still new-ish husband and I sat on our car in a quiet country cemetery on an August night in the early 2000s watching the Perseids. I knew that my father would be sitting on his deck at his house in another town an hour away watching, too, so we called him.

“Hey Dad,” I said when he answered. “You watching?”

“Yup,” he said.

I suppose an aging cemetery isn’t a popular place to hang on a summer night, but it was the best place to see the Perseids and we had it to ourselves. We stayed for an hour with my dad on the phone, watching the meteors draw in the sky like a celestial Etch-A-Sketch. Every now and then, one would be brighter or longer or seem bigger and one of us would say “Whoa!” and I would say, “Did you see that, Dad?” into the phone and he would answer, “Yes, I did.”

We had work the next morning, so the stargazing had to end. But already in the car ride home when I said goodbye to my father, I knew that night was special. The sky had solidly connected the new life I was creating with my husband to my past and to the people who had created me.

We lost my dad in 2017. I hope that, like the Perseids that night, he and I are still now somehow seeing all the same wonders: his grandson’s 800-meter run in track and the twin fawns on our lawn and the sweet corn I grew. Sitting on my own deck at night, I ask the stars, “Did you see that, Dad?” I imagine his voice answering, “Yes, I did.”