Western Slope Skies - Loving the Wilderness Night

Jan 27, 2017

Credit NPS photo by Neal Herbert - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

In the early days of the U.S. space program, President John Kennedy proclaimed, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

 

Although challenging, he proclaimed that our unquenchable fire of curiosity would lead us to a dynamic national life, rather than to live in the twilight of complacency.

Go outside this evening and look up.  Much of winter’s celestial repertoire will be there and perhaps familiar:  Orion, Venus, Mars or Sirius.  Stay in the darkness.  Let your eyes adjust.  Be patient.  The full display will be revealed as the minutes go by.  

We rely on our eyes for most of the information we receive.  But doing so limits our ability to understand.  Any wilderness land beneath our feet is filled with thousands of miles of roots, fungus, filaments, insects and microbes, most of which is buried in the soil.  We can’t see these things unaided – only with microscopes.  So too is our night sky.

Wrapping our minds around the wilderness that is the night sky is to take on faith that there are quasars, nebulae, and galaxies that we will never see, unaided.

Except for our sun, most of the expanse that our space explorers work in is dark.  Most of our universe is dark.  And for centuries before our modern era, people took it on faith that the night was a part of living - that their rhythm of life depended on the dark.

It’s hard to grasp Kennedy’s challenge: to understand what we cannot see.  So, go out tonight to embrace the dark.  Seize the mystery of our expansive, limitless wilderness night sky.  

To learn more, join the Black Canyon Astronomical Society for evening programs and night sky viewing at the South Rim of Black Canyon National Park, February 25th and March 25th.

Western Slope Skies is produced by members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society.  This episode was written & recorded by Paul Zaenger.