Monday, January 18, 2010

Stars in Our Eyes


Cygnus, the swan

Once upon a time, they were all stars. Every dot of light in the night sky, except the moon of course, was a star. Some wandered (that's what "planet" means), some were tiny ("asteroid" means small star). Did you know that the word "comet" originally meant "stars with long hair?" Sweet.

It's no wonder we thought we were the center of everything, standing on terra firma, gazing out into the impossibly star spangled skies. Before Galileo, the sky was a lot simpler. There were big stars and small stars, wandering stars and stars with long hair, but they were all stars. A part of my "memories" of past lifetimes, especially during the Ice Age, involves the importance of the stars. In my mind's eye, I remember how present the stars were in our lives, how we wondered, even then, what the heck was going on up there.

No wonder it was such a shock when Copernicus published his book On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. We knew by then that the wanderers weren't really stars, but we still believed that this beautiful planet stood at the center of the universe.

Since the invention of electric light, our relationship with the stars has changed dramatically. Though it's true we can't take our eyes off the night sky even now, the way we stargaze is very different. We look through telescopes or at photographs taken through telescopes.

I am so grateful for the Hubbel images, and for Voyager I and II, and the other probes and great telescope images of the past two decades. I'm completely fascinated by everything we've learned about the stars, also what we've learned about the solar system; the true nature of the planets and the rings around them, as well as the moons that "shepherd" the rings, dwarf planets, plutoids, centaurs, comets, the asteroid belt, the Kuiper Belt, the Oort cloud and that giant ribbon at the edge of the solar system, for instance.

The more we find out, the more mysterious the night sky becomes. There's no doubt, though, that we humans love the stars, no doubt that we are related to the stars. I love that!

16 comments:

Janelle said...

what a beautiful post darlin'! just beautiful. and as for that last piccie. . . .you DO walk around with your eyes wide open...lots love xx j

ellen abbott said...

Stargazing in Boquillas Canyon in Big Bend during my river guide days...so incredible out there with no light pollution.

lakeviewer said...

Hey stargazer, there is more up there than you or I or anyone else will know in our lifetime. Gives us all lots to wander about. Go see Avatar and enjoy the traveling through this universe.

p.s. we have an ordinance in town that limits electric outdoor lights, so that we can stargaze in comfort. Neat, ah?

lakeviewer said...

p.s. You always give us lots to wonder about, Reya. Thank you.

Reya Mellicker said...

It's the one thing I miss most, being an urban dweller. I can't see the stars.

Stars are good for me, they inspire me, they connect me to the huge mystery of the multiverse.

Damn. I need stars.

Dan Gurney said...

Stars! We are quite literally made of stars. We are stardust.

Stars, ancient stars, were the "nuclear factories" that made the carbon and other atoms of which we were made.

Of late I've been far more aware of and interested in the moon and its phases. And in the city, you can still see the moon.

But, yeah, get out of town from time to time and feast your eyes and your soul on a clear, moonless night sky.

Barry said...

We are the stuff of stars Reya. Perhaps that is why they fascinate us so.

Linda Sue said...

Hey there STAR girl- yes, we are made up of the same stuff of stars. The universe is fascinating, mind boggling, inspiring and we are so very tiny! We take the telescope out on the deck sometimes- IF there is a night sky, rare here...and just wander about, looking here and there and I am struck by light reaching us from ions ago, the object no longer there - we see it as it was- master of illusion. Hubble and real time are the best gifts we ever recieved from space science.

Deborah said...

great photo

star stuff
all of us are star stuff

some shine more brightly than others

my love to one of the brightest amongst us

Tom said...

this post is nearly poetic...awesome, and your photo gets my best pic of January award...i'm gonna save that one; great capture!

Ronda Laveen said...

What a fascinating article about the "Ribbon." At first I thought it had to do with the Electro Magnetic Field, but now I'm not so sure. Very interesting how it is perpendicular to the magnetic field. Maybe a negative field? Wow, can't wait to read what they discover.

steven said...

dan, barry and linda sue came in with my very favourite knowing of this place and so i'll say something else. i've laid my body down on a northern beach late on a summer night and watched the stars and the satellites pass overhead and known my very own tiny fine-wired connection to those things and it's pure magic beyond the simple magic of light and darkness. i didn't know that the names for the little bits of rock and gas flying around with us meant what you say they meant. that's beautiful. steven

Reya Mellicker said...

Yes we are stardust, plus some heavier elements, of course. One of my great teachers used to say that we are the conduit between heaven and earth. It always made me feel so important.

Steven my mother used to get us to lie down on a blanket in the backyard and gaze at stars. She loved to talk about how the sky is a field of time, including the most ancient of times if you look hard enough.

No wonder we love the sky so much!!

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks, Tom. If you think it's poetic, then I was doing a fine job this morning!

小湘 said...

GREAT........................................

Barb Mann said...

Ah, Reya--I wish I could get you out here at my farmlet some night; out here in the middle of nowhere the stars are clear and so multitudinous as to boggle the mind. Not this week, though--we have a parade of storms flying through, with rain, snow, lots of wind, and clouds of all descriptions. It's the summer stars I love.