"For each of us there is some mission in life if we but find it. All have some definite thing to do, something for which they have been created; and only the doing of this thing will justify their existence here on earth. If we come into the world and occupy space and time without giving back for this privilege, we have not justified ourselves, and our lives in the end are barren." ~ Hay

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Starry, Starry Night

How many times to we go out at night, whether we are driving the kids around or coming home from work, rushing to and fro just to get to our destination?  Do we ever bother to look up?  There’s something magical going on over our heads and we pay no attention.  Way up in the sky, on a clear night, we can see something astonishing.  We can see stars, constellations, other planets and even another galaxy!  During a recent visit, my brother-in-law asked me to accompany him to the beach because he wanted to take pictures of the evening sky.   He has always been fascinated by space and its vastness and likes the idea of journeying back in time.   I dressed warm and off we went.
Okay....Maybe not warm enough!

We found a remote, private beach.  Up in the sky, on a very cold winter day, you could see Mars, Jupiter and Venus.  I was struggling to remember what I learned in astronomy when I took it in college over 20 years ago.  I did get an A for the course, despite the fact that my best friend was in the class and we couldn’t stop laughing at the professor.  I remember one time he was trying to show us how the planets rotated by a tennis ball with a long string.  He swung it in circles over his head until he clocked himself right on his forehead.  It was hard not to laugh but I never forgot his experiment.  I also never forgot the order of the planets; Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
Jupiter with it's moons
My ruling planet....Mars!

In addition to the planets, my brother-in-law pointed out a Nebula, which is where stars are born.  He became very excited when he was able to get a shot of Andromeda, a distant galaxy that is 2.5 million light years away, which means that it took the light captured in the photograph 2.5 million years to reach Erath, so we were seeing the galaxy as it existed 2.5 million years ago (well before modern man walked the Earth).  How crazy is that?!!
Andromeda - A distant Galaxy!

Why bother paying money to watch a science fiction movie when all you have to do is look at the sky at night?  If you live in a warm climate, take a towel and lay flat on your back and watch the show.  You may see a few shooting stars!  To help you out, there are applications for cell phones and ipods/ipads that can assist in identifying constellations, specific stars, galaxies, nebulae, etc.  My brother-in-law uses Google Sky Map and Sky View.
Please don’t miss the show.  The next time you are out in the evening and it is a clear night…”LOOK UP!”

***A special thanks to my brother-in-law (Brian Murphy) for taking me star gazing and providing information and pictures for this blog post.

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