By Herman Heyn SPECIAL TO THE SUN...

A MEMORABLE PLACE

April 23, 2000

A MEMORABLE PLACE

By Herman Heyn

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Seeing a cross in the Cuban night

I'm not a person who takes a vacation just for the fun of it. That's not to say I don't have fun on my vacations, it's just that I need something extra beside lying on the beach to get me going.

I have a big interest in astronomy, so many of my vacations have been staged around chasing solar eclipses. When my old friends and bicycling buddies Jim Pickett and Bill Tashlick invited me to join them on a 600-mile bicycling tour of Cuba, aside from exclaiming, "Cuba!" I respectfully declined, seeing no specific purpose in such a trip.

But they kept leaning on me, and on Dec. 16, at a party for my birthday (one I share with Jim's wife, Debbie), I caved in and said I'd go.

After the party I had a sinking feeling that the Cuba trip was going to be a two-week, purposeless black hole in my otherwise busy life. Then I had an "ah ha" revelation:

If I could take along a telescope and do public astronomy in Cuba -- the way I do here in Fells Point and Harborplace -- the trip would assume the kind of purpose I needed.

We would be flying to Cuba from Canada, and from Air Canada I learned that my three-inch telescope would meet the size and weight limits for luggage. My course was set. I would turn my part of the Cuba trip into a combined bicycling and telescoping adventure.

Also, I would try to get my first personal photograph of Crux, the Southern Cross, a constellation that can be seen well only from Cuba and points south. Because of its prominence in the southern sky, Crux has been incorporated into the flags of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Western Samoa.

While in Cuba, I set up the telescope in the central squares of four towns along our route. Unlike my practice in Baltimore, I did not solicit "hat" contributions. It was an exciting experience for me and many appreciative Cuban lookers, one I hope to someday repeat.

Getting my first-ever Crux photo required a number of 4 a.m. sorties into the Cuban night. Here's the shot I got.

Herman Heyn lives in Baltimore and is known as the city's "Street Corner Astronomer."

READERS RESPOND

Where do you go to get away from it all?

Key west, Fla.

Christine Filler, Dundalk

"My boyfriend and I visited for the first time in 1996, and it's the one place we have gone back to every year since because of its relaxing atmosphere, beautiful sunsets, delicious seafood and key lime pie!"

Poconos Mountains

Jean Derflinger, New Windsor

"In my opinion, the best way to get away is to go to the mountains. Time in the Poconos has taught me to relax and enjoy nature.

Our next question?

Where's a place you won't visit again, and why?

MY BEST SHOT

Arizona's majestic monuments to time

By Charles Goldsmith Jr., Ellicott City

Located 100 miles from the Grand Canyon, the beautiful mountains of Cathedral Rock, Ariz., have been sculpted by the elements over time. The colorful landscape left us with a lasting impression.

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