I loaded a program on my iPod called “Planets.” I entered my longitude and latitude and now it shows me the position of planets in the sky. It also shows the moon. It provides rise and set times for them, as well as the sun. It has been pretty handy. I check it in the morning when I head out for a run. It is dark at that time and I get to see what is still out. I also check it in the evening. Even if it is cloudy I tend to look to find out what I am missing.
Lately at night, just before bed, my son has been keen to see it. He wants to see what planets are out there. That is great itself, but the thing I love is that he wants to really see them. This little electronic gizmo is just a tool. He wants to try to find the planets. He wants to see the moon. Tonight he ran to the window and pointed. “I see it,” he shouted. “I see Jupiter!” He was excited. He was pretty fired up last night as well. He has been loving exploring the night sky. That makes me happy, as a parent and as a human being. If he can learn to love the world around him, especially at night, both he and the world will be better off.
Lately, Jupiter has been the planet to spot. Mornings, I can see Mars and Venus, but my boy isn’t typically up when they show themselves. He can see the moon, however, and he has been enjoying watching it grow these past few nights. “A half moon!” he spouted when he saw it tonight. Good stuff.
New images were just released from the Hubble telescope, the first since the spring, when some repairs were made. You can read a New York Times article here to learn more. Here is one of the images:
Abell 370 Galaxy Cluster
Look up into the night sky (if you live in a place that isn’t so flooded with light that you can’t see the night sky) and you can see more stars than you can count. On a clear night, even here so close to so many lights, I can see the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon. I get, well, starstruck sometimes. But this photo isn’t of stars, it is of galaxies. There are too many galaxies to count. And each one of them contains countless stars. And eac star is too big to truly comprehend. It can make one dizzy.
Jupiter is just visible as I write this, rising in the east. It has been hanging around our skies for many nights lately. If I could see over the hill to the west I might have seen Saturn or even Mercury just after the sun set. Dang hill.
The world itself, this planet Earth of ours, is too vast to grasp. I can’t really fathom 6 1/2 billion people, or the depth of the ocean, or the dryness of the Gobi Desert, or camels. And look at that picture. How many worlds are there just within its frame? How can there not be life out there somewhere? The odds are with us on that one. It seems almost impossible that there wouldn’t be life beyond Earth.
I saw a beetle today I had never seen before–yellow and black and green with stripes. Check it out:
Isn’t that amazing enough? And the milkweed on which it sits–isn’t there discovery in the shape and color and structure of those leaves? Countless immense galaxies and tiny new beetles to be gazed upon. I’ve got more than enough wonder for many lifetimes.
Got a new iPod Touch yesterday. Loving it. I finally figured out how to sync it with my calendar and contacts. I had to call Green Mountain Access to retrieve my password (those folks are awesome!) because I deleted mine by accident, like a D-U-M. Then I could get email. I still can’t figure out why I keep getting the same emails over and over even after I delete them. Weirdness is afoot. Anyway, it still seems to get the job done, just in an overwhelming way.
I downloaded a couple of apps as well. I look forward to using “Planets” once it gets dark. It gives you a view of the night sky, based on your location (I entered my latitude and longitude) and the time of day (er, night) and tells you what it what. The view changes as the clock ticks. You can see when you will be able to see the planets and when the sun rises and sets and the phases of the moon. Way cool. And it was free.
I have a couple of other new apps as well (I did spend 99 cents on one) and I think this thing is just the grooviest gadget to hit the household since the cuisinart. And I haven’t even begun to download music or podcasts. Playtime stretches before me. I just need to put the thing down long enough to make lunch for the children and take them to the library. And sleep. Oh, and have breakfast.
I wish I had a good image of it, but I was not in a position to take photos. Plus, I didn’t have a camera. I had been hearing for a couple of days how tonight would provide a good show if things worked out right. Jupiter, Venus and the crescent moon are in conjunction, which really means they are all close together.
I drove home from South Burlington and heard this again on Vermont Public Radio‘s Eye on the Night Sky. I looked and was disappointed to see clouds covering the entire sky, at least from my narrow viewpoint. But once I was in Shelburne and my view was broader, I looked up again.
The clouds had one hole in them and right in that hole was what I was seeking. The skinny moon hung there with two bright planets accompanying it to the right, like ushers. It lasted for a few minutes before the clouds starting moving back in, and the show was over. It was quite a sight.