In total comfort in an Audi 4x4, we were shuttled up to Hurricane Point, an open knob about 300 feet higher in elevation than the top of Aspen Mountain, with near 360-degree views of a sky that is considerably clearer — thanks to the elevation and lack of pollution, light and otherwide — than most places in the country.
Our adventure concierge, Steve Goff, pointed out that most visitors to Aspen spend their time primarily in the “catcher’s mitt” of town and its immediate surroundings, where the views aren’t quite as grand. “So we get people up here,” he said, to take advantage of the amazing sights and experiences available above the mountains.
Set up in comfortable canvas chairs, or on a picnic blanket for those who like to lie down to view the sky, we settle in as our astronomy guide, incoming senior Ricky Wojcik, begins to share his boundless knowledge of the night sky. As if on cue, a shooting star blazes its bright white path over the nearby southern horizon, almost as if it were part of the program.
For those of us for whom it’s been a while since high school astronomy class, Ricky begins with the basics. What is a star? A big mass of plasma, or superheated gas, which shines due to the nuclear fusion that it releases from its core. He explains how stars are created and how they die, and how the speed of light works, so that the stars we think we see in the sky are actually just light that’s traveled, in many cases, millions of years — meaning the actual stars may or may not still be alive. Contemplating the notion that our own sun is about halfway through its 8-billion-year life cycle, some of us strike up a conversation about what will happen to humanity when the sun begins to collapse into space …