Friday, 18 July 2008

Comfort in the Night Skies

Everyone has their thing. Some people wrap themselves in the warm blanket of religious conviction. Some take solace in a good book. Others find comfort of food. I get all my warm-fuzzies from science.

Give me the starry night sky anytime to return my perspective and my faith in the world. I look up and see the magic in the redness of Mars, the string of holiday lights that is the summer Milky Way, the brightness of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn. Give me the huge ruddiness of the huge moon that has just pulled itself up over the horizon; give me the silvery moon at the height of its 18-year cycle when it is riding high and straight up overhead, a small white globe. Show me the next meteor shower glowing through the night sky.

I have all those stupendous facts at my fingertips. Ask me how long the sidereal year of Neptune is: 164.8 Earth years... not exactly a fast trip. I don't get to see it make a half of its trip around the sun. But I get to see it every so often, because our trip around the sun is considerably faster.

Did you know that aside from Saturn, all the gas giants (and frozen planets) have rings? I do. They are darker, fainter, not the majestic brightness of Saturn's rings (artfully captured by Cassini). But they do have them.

And moons! Our sky is filled with our single moon; Jupiter is surrounded by at current count 63 moons! And it is by far one of the brightest objects in the sky. This month on the 10th and 11th Jupiter was at opposition and a staggering -2.7 magnitude! It was really bright. A beacon to guide me home when we returned from the 0120 call we were on.

Normally I find the beauty of the stars visible and gorgeous; when I have had a difficult day and need to restore my love of life, I go out to wrap myself in the dance that is the heavens in motion.

No comments: