Tuesday, 05 February 2019 20:27

COLUMN: A night under the stars

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The stars shine bright over Town Creek Indian Mound the evening of Feb. 2 for one of the site's astronomy events. The stars shine bright over Town Creek Indian Mound the evening of Feb. 2 for one of the site's astronomy events. Betty McIntyre - Richmond Observer

The night sky is filled with wonders in which no one has ever been able to fully understand. After the sun sets, and on a clear night, one can see millions of tiny stars twinkling in the dark sky. This amazing sight captures the eye of the beholder. 

Town Creek Indian Mound is North Carolina’s only national historical landmark dedicated to the American Indians who once lived there. There is a visitor center which includes interpretive features as well as audio-visual displays. On site is the Guard Tower, the Mortuary, the Town House and Mound, as well as the East Lodge with Little River flowing behind. There is also a nature trail for those who may want to enjoy a short hike. 

The historic site began hosting the “Town Creek Under the Stars” astronomy program around three years ago. The events take place on an average of four times each year beginning in January and ending in April.

On Feb. 2, folks began arriving to view the stars which took place from 6 until 9 p.m. 

Town Creek employee Ethan Greene greeted and directed everyone to the auditorium for a short presentation of what to expect. There were more than 30 attendees who listened as Greene explained some of the constellations to look for in the night sky. A few that were mentioned were Winter Maker, Loons, First Man, and First Woman. 

A constellation is a group of stars that form an imaginary pattern. These patterns typically represent an animal, a mythological person or creature, or an inanimate object. A planisphere, which is a map formed by projection showing constellations, was given to everyone so each person would be familiar with the shapes of the constellations. 

After the presentation, we all ventured out into the night. As it got further into the night hours, the sky became darker and the stars brighter. Telescopes were provided as Greene began pointing out certain stars and constellations for viewing. 

One that was brought to our attention was Mars. He told us there was a crater on Mars seven times greater than the Grand Canyon. Greene also brought to our attention the twinkling stars and told us the stars are not really moving, but instead it is the atmosphere between them and us. He also pointed out a satellite which we saw moving far above in the night sky. 

Everyone found their own spot to view the amazing scene, and I had my camera set-up to shoot the stars. As I captured the beauty, three ladies walked up and began talking to me. They proceeded to introduce themselves as Tammy Sheffield, Rebecca Williams and Lisa Freeland. I learned that Sheffield and Williams had recently been on a mission trip to Honduras. They proceeded to tell me that the stars in the sky there were also amazing. 

“We were on top of a mountain and had no power,” Sheffield said. “The sky was truly amazing as the moon lit the entire sky which enabled us to be able to see our way around the homes.” 

It felt as if you could just reach up and touch the stars,” Williams added.

We instantly connected, as we all had the love for astronomy in common. 

Astronomy is truly a wonder to mankind. If you have never taken the time to view the night sky, I encourage you to do so on a clear night. You will stand in awe. 

Town Creek Indian Mound is located approximately five miles east of Mount Gilead, in southern Montgomery County, between N.C. 73 and N..C 731. For more information on Town Creek, visit www.towncreek.nchistoricsites.org or call 910-439-6802. You can also join the Facebook page “Little River Stargazers.”


Betty McIntyre is a contributing writer for the Richmond Observer.