I took a little bit of time away from computers and ended up in west Texas for some camping and exploring of desert towns. One of the most incredible things I experienced was a star party at McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis.

I expected a handful of people there, but it must have been hundreds of people making their way up the dimly-lit path to an outdoor presentation area with several rows of stone benches. There were people of all ages, even some in wheelchairs. It started with a guided tour of the constellations that were visible. There were a lot, as it was a very clear night with a new moon.

Using a laser guide that you could follow all the way up to the stars, the guide pointed out how to find one constellation from another, starting with the big dipper. I made mental notes about all kinds of constellations, but I'm hopeful that I'll be able to identify Scorpius the next time I'm somewhere with a clear enough sky to make out the stars.

After the constellation tour, there were small lines at around a dozen telescopes, some setup in domes, to view nebulae, Andromeda, Saturn and its rings, Uranus, and several other phenomena. The event piqued my interest in the stars, and I will be looking for other star parties around Philadelphia and when I'm near the Smokey Mountains in a week or so.