Friday, November 09, 2007

Oh, starry skies!

I've mentioned before the awesome view we have of the heavens out in the middle of nowhere. There are no lights to mar up the view and we had the one "street" light on our property turned off. So when it's dark out, it's BLACK.

Except for the stars sprinkled across the sky. We can see planets and constellations and the Milky Way. Looking up at that vastness is a lot like looking out across the ocean for me. I feel so small, so insignificant when I just sit there and absorb the view. When I try to think about the size of the universe, by brain gets all tangled up in knots, because how can it possibly go on forever? And if it doesn't go on for infinity, what's on the other side? Some have suggested the universe is round, but even if it is, what's on the other side of that roundness? And the brain begins to tangle and fight with itself because honestly, I think the heavens are just too vast for the human brain to ever fully grasp.

Anyway, one of the things we like to do is try to spot celestial events. Like Mars coming close to Earth, or meteor showers or comets or trying to see and identify the four planets that line up once every two thousand years or so. Yeah, we saw those.

Over the past few nights we've been watching the enormous explosion of the comet 17P/Holmes. We found it.

It's just a dull, smudgy smear of white slowly making its way between brighter stars as it continues to follow its trajectory. There it is, out there in the nothingness, exploding its little comet heart out millions of light years away. I try to imagine what it would look like up close, if we would see colors or just an incredible bright white light. But it's hard to imagine what you've never seen.

And then I wonder: Who the heck noticed that tiny little comet back before computer programs tracked changes in the night skies? I look up and I see billions of stars. I know a few dozen constellations but I wouldn't notice if a new smudge, a new star showed up in the night sky, just as I wouldn't notice if any one of the thousands of stars just blinked out of existence one night.

It's pretty amazing stuff.


MP said...

It really does blow the mind..I haven't had the opportunity to look into a dark sky like that in a long time...I do enjoy getting lost in my thoughts though...

Heather, Queen of Shake-Shake said...

I read not too long ago that they've discovered a part of the universe where everything we consider natural law is actually just the opposite. Up is down, back is forward, etc.

So mind blowing!

There is nothing like the stars in the country

lov grma said...

We live out in the country, BUT, seems all the farmers around here, have two or more big yard lights, on their place. We do get light from the two small cities, one on each side of us, few miles away.
Makes me mad, just what are these farmers afraid off, needing to be all light up at night, boogymen?

Do get to see some bright stars, and even watched the space station and spaceship, when they parted, one time.

Love to lay in bed at night and watch the sky, out my window, wonder just what I am looking at?

This giant place we live in, we are just a speck.

goat roper said...

We aren't insignificant! Just very tiny. There is too much light pollution to see much of the natural sky here, until we escape to the mts. Do you use a telescope program to search the skies?