Sometimes it takes looking to the stars to put things in perspective. Like sudden death and VISA bills. I’ll never forget the 1998 summer night at Walden when I first saw Saturn’s rings through my little cabin telescope. The gas giant planet, tens of times bigger than Earth, was a tiny spot in my viewfinder, with delicate filament-like rings casting shadows on its milky surface.
And the Andromeda Galaxy. Did you know you can see a galaxy of 100 billion stars, the same size as our Milky Way, with the naked eye? Think about this for a minute: 100 billion suns. If just .0001% of these has a planet around it that resembles Earth, that’s 10,000,000 Earths. Andromeda is just one of billions of galaxies. And you can see it by looking up. The tragedy is that our “modern” cities now obscure this view, and this perspective on life, by urban lighting. Even in PEI near the cabin a faint orange glow from Charlottetown is creeping up the southern horizon.
So what does seeing Andromeda mean? I like to think it frees me. How can someone tell me what is Truth when I can see 100 billion stars with my own eye. This kind of perspective has worked before. Think of ancient times. The great philosophers and poets of Greece, Egypt and China. All looked up. And great things happened: grand ideas like democracy, and mathematics, art. The fact that the sky is disappearing from us makes me worry.
For a treat, get out of the city to see a rare celestial visitor: Comet Machholz. See more info here. All you need is a pair of binoculars to view and contemplate a huge snowball hurtling through space, melting as it approaches the sun.
Check out the Dark Sky Association to learn more about the impact of light pollution.
See a photo that shows the impact of urban lighting on the night sky.