Bill Muhlenfeld is owner and publisher of Distinctly Montana magazine and other Montana publications. Bill lives in Bozeman with his partner, Anthea, and always finds time to enjoy the great outdoors... when he's not writing about it.
I read somewhere once, and I'm sure it's "more" true now, that only about 30% of the American population can see stars at night. Not just the twinkle-bling of Orion's belt, or the steady glare of Mars, occasionally visible in the light-fog of cities and towns; but incredible night skies with flotillas of fiery stars spread like sequins over the black velvet of deep space.
I am reminded of this fact every winter evening when I make it a point to look up, to gaze upon the incredible void of which we are but a small, blue speck, a mote of inconceivable inconsequence. It is indeed incredible; and seems of such transcendent importance that I imagine the world to be be a bit of a different place to those of us who see the night sky...who really see stars.
In a previous home, near Eagle Rock, I was amazed at the difference. Out the front door of our home, facing the Gallatin Range, the sky was a blanket of black, beset with shiny, shimmering jewels of the cosmos. The Milky Way poured its galaxies over the mountain ridges, flowing to the beyond. From our back balcony, overlooking Bozeman, the sky was nearly wiped clean, refracted to a tangerine smear by the candle-power of thousands of lights from streets, homes and businesses. The contrast was startling and instructive, existential in its import, metaphysical in its lesson.
Montana is a great state for star-gazing, and the new mobile apps add a bit of fun to scanning the night skies with one's phone or tablet. I can now find Jupiter or Saturn, Betelgeuse or Pallas with a simple scan...amazing in its own right.
But, when I am in greatest need of wonder, I turn out our home lights and just gaze into the heavens. "Awesome" doesn't say enough.