Lake Geneva’s Dark Sky

Lake Geneva’s Dark Sky

I readily admit that I do not understand space. I can’t fathom what it is, how large it is, and the concept that there is no end to what I see when I look skyward on the darkest of nights is a concept that I find truly mind boggling. Apparently, I’m not alone in this wonder, as our inaccurate friends at Zillow have now told us that communities where the skies are especially dark are especially desirable. So called Dark Sky Communities like to boast that they are dark. It’s a sign of progress that we now view darkness as a positive, as so much of our ancestors lives were spent trying so desperately to get out of the dark. Now, prosperity dictates that we engage the dark, and the more affluent your dark sky community, the darker your sky.

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The folks at Zillow told the folks at the Wall Street Journal that the best luxury spot for dark sky viewing is Stinson, California. Stinson, it seems, is awfully dark at night. I’ve never been there, so while I’d like to take their word for it, one commenter keenly points out that the typical fog in Stinson would make the dark sky claim somewhat suspect. He’s a commenter on a website, which means he can’t be wrong. The great hamlet of Stinson has long attracted dark sky aficionados, which is why in 1895 they built a giant telescope there.

The telescope was to be the largest refractory telescope in the world, and even though the namesake of this giant telescope was a shady character with a penchant for dishonest dealings, the telescope was built. Mounted inside an 18′ telescope was a 40″ lens. It was as big as big could be, without making the lens so big that it would be ineffective at capturing far away objects, like, say, stars. Stinson was so proud of their scope!

Except that scope wasn’t built in Stinson, because who would want to build a giant telescope in Stinson? Not Mr. Yerkes, and that’s why he built it in Lake Geneva. The sky was dark, and winters cold and clear, and the proximity to civilization appealing. The observatory is still there, of course, and it’s still looking skyward. It’s a really nice telescope.

Lake Geneva, for some reason other than coastal bias, wasn’t included in the Zillow Dark Sky list. It’s outside of California, and not in the mountains of Colorado, nor is it on the Eastern seaboard, so it didn’t get any respect in the dark sky study. That doesn’t really matter, because unlike unmeaningful towns in morally corrupt states, Lake Geneva is a star. Would we have a giant telescope if this were not true?

So Stinson. It’s nice that you have some designation. We don’t have that designation, and that’s for our shame. But we have a giant telescope so big that even ol’ Albert Einstein came to take a gander through its lens. Did Al Einstein hang out in Stinson looking at the sky? Of course not. Stinson, when you get a telescope as big as ours, let us know.

Lake Geneva, dark sky certified since Chief Big Foot looked out of his tent and said “I’m not going out there, it’s too dark”.

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