With cloudy night after a cloudy night, passing us by this summer, one wonders whether it would be appropriate to hit a baseball onto the floor or something to encourage the sky to clear, if only for an hour or so, on any one of these mild summer evenings.   I used to take cloudy weather personally, and when I was much younger, I had quite a temper.

In August of 1962 (I was 14 then) I carried my typewriter by bicycle to Summit Park, a beautiful wooded park atop a small hill not far from my family home.   I was writing one of my first astronomy books, a little too confidently entitled An Encyclopedia of the Universe, and had just begun page 260 in the chapter about double stars. About halfway down the page, some minor problem befuddled my typewriter, and I had what I now call my “double star tantrum.”   Repeatedly striking the little typewriter against the maple tree under which I was sitting, there was nothing to do but cycle everything home.

The next morning was another day, however.  I asked Mother if I could borrow her typewriter, claiming that mine had been somehow damaged.  I cycled back to the same tree, placed the bottom half of the torn sheet of paper into the typewriter, and calmly resumed typing.

The original typewriter was repaired while I was living in Denver at the Jewish National Home for Asthmatic Children. “Whatever did you do with your typewriter?” Dad wrote to me.  “It cost me $50 to repair it!”  Some ten years later, with my passion for astronomy still at a maximum, my brother Gerry gave me a poster with a quotation from Henry David Thoreau, one of my favorite writers.  It is from the conclusion of his book Walden:

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

Carrying those wonderful thoughts in my mind, I returned to Summit Park and photographed the tree still healthy and pointing skyward to the stars I love so much.  On these summer evenings, the tall tree points roughly toward Vega, the brightest star in the summer sky and a member of the Summer Triangle.  Very close to Vega is a famous double star called Epsilon Lyrae.  It consists of two stars close together, each of which is in turn accompanied by a faint companion.

Perhaps because of that incident from long ago,  I have become a fan of double stars and am still observing them, enjoying their different colors and trying to separate them with my telescopes.  I like to think that in my declining years, that my anger issues have been resolved, but what I don’t forget about that day is that the afternoon ignited a strong interest in the many stars in our sky that have companions, circling each other as they parade through our galaxy.


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