by Mark Hendricks
The semester before our 2009 trip to Kaua’i, Diana took a college astronomy course from Don Olson, a truly world-renowned astronomer on the Texas State faculty. Hawai’i is considered the most remote population center on the planet, meaning that – for a relatively large population – it is further away from a major land mass than any other. This remoteness makes it ideal for stargazing, and, in fact, the Big Island is home to one of the world’s most significant observatories.
So, it seemed only natural that Diana would ask Don if there would be anything interesting in the sky for us to see when we were there in late May. And it was only natural that Don would be helpful and very happy to inform us that we would be there at the only time of year – late May – when the Southern Cross would be visible from the Hawaiian Islands. That particular constellation is usually only visible in the Southern Hemisphere, but Don assured us that there is a narrow window where it can be seen in the southern Hawaiian sky in late May. All you have to do is look in the southern sky after 9 p.m. or so and it should be there, slightly above the horizon. That would be easy for us as we were staying on the southern shore of Kaua’i. A simple look straight out at the ocean from the beach should give us a great view of the Cross.
So we were disappointed that the first three nights, the southern sky was shrouded with cloud cover. The rest of the sky was perfectly clear and the stars were beautiful, but the southern exposure was non-existent. It would have been so easy for us to see it, too, because our balcony lanai faced directly south. It should have provided a perfect view for “Cross-gazing.” On the third night, though, I had about given up.
The child of a Marine Corps officer, Mark grew up on the move. A barefoot childhood on the beaches of Oahu, coming of age in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Mark made his way through five universities before settling in as a Texas State University Bobcat. He was a news, crime and sports reporter as well as news editor for the Laredo News, and served time at the San Marcos Daily Record. After a decade or so in the newspaper business, he went into higher education communications, and has spent almost a quarter-century back at Texas State, where he is now the Director of the University News Service.