Friday, July 01, 2016

Best Explanation Ever

Out here on Vancouver Island, July and August bring us incredibly clear night skies. I cherish the season, trying to set aside a half hour or more to sky gazing before bed. It's amazing what there is to see - stars, meteors, satellites, even the International Space Station (there's an ISS app telling you when it will be overhead in your location).

Once you're used to it you may find a connection to all you see in that night sky. Some of the light you will see with the naked eye is several thousand years old. The oldest event man has seen with sophisticated instruments clocked in at 168,000 light years old. Creationists go ape shit trying to explain that away.

I enjoy gazing into the clear night sky, communing with what's out there. I've always felt somehow connected although in a most infinitesimal scale. We're here for what, 60 maybe 80 years? In galactic terms that's not even the flaring of a match. Still it's a wonderous thing that I somehow find comforting. It adds a perspective in which our individual irrelevance is somehow welcoming.

With that in mind, I'd like to share this from Neil deGrasse Tyson. His point - when you look into the universe, you're seeing yourself.


Lorne said...

There used to be a cottage in my wife's family, Mound. Whenever we would visit, it was always with a sense of awe and humility that I would look up at the night sky, so immensely rich when not blocked out by light pollution. It is not hard to understand why, from ancient to modern times, it inspires and provokes deep contemplation,

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I remember back in the late 50's or early 60's when I was in southern Ontario, my mom and dad woke me and my brother up and took us outside to see the Sputnik satellite passing overhead. Probably one of my earliest memories.

ThinkingManNeil said...

You've touched on something very personal here for me. While I love all things aviation, as well as volcanology, paleontology, science in general, and more recently - say in the past 20 years - politics, the overarching passion throughout my life has been astronomy. Ever since I first saw a full moon as a little kid, the night sky has utterly captivated me. I'm not happy if I can't see the stars at night, and living just east of Toronto makes that an increasingly dismal prospect. I currently own three telescopes - a 5.5" Mini-Dobsonian, a 6" Newtonian reflector on a tripod with a German equatorial mount, and a 10" collapsible Dobsonian - as well as a pair of large, astronomical binoculars, but I rarely get to use them since I'm my elderly mom's full-time caregiver. That, and the fact that the most one can see from my locale are the Moon, bright planets, and only the brightest stars. When the time comes for me to lay aside my caregiver duties, I hope to relocate to a small town where the night skies are far more visible.

To me, the night sky and the ability to clearly see the stars in
their abundance, to see the Milky Way, meteor showers, and the Northern Lights, is as much a critical part of preserving the environment as preserving wetlands, eliminating deforestation, mitigating climate change, along with a whole host of other environmental and ecological concerns and challenges, because if we divorce ourselves from the night through wasteful lighting and light pollution, it further desensitizes us to the the harm we are doing to the planet in general.

If I had the time and financial resources, I would work to establish a public observatory and outdoor planetarium in Algonquin Provincial Park that would be readily accessible through Spring to the Fall, as well as establish public planetariums in every major city across Canada to show people what we've lost and why it's so important to have star-filled night skies in our lives, and not have to travel scores of miles to see them, because who can't be moved by looking up and knowing this is out there?

The American astronomer and science popularizer, Carl Sagan, has long been my personal hero, and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a more than worthy heir to Sagan's legacy. May he and the Universe touch many minds...