with some planet watching.
All things space related kind of freak me out. Don’t get me wrong, I find topics like space, time and the universe highly intriguing. I’ve spent a good number of evenings having discussions on such matters. Nonetheless, whenever I discuss, hear about, or even think of these subjects, I become overwhelmed by the vastness of it all. Often, people throw the term “humbling” around when speaking of space and the Earth’s place in it. Humbling it is, but I also find it borderline terrifying. In relation to the rest of the universe, our solar system, every star and every galaxy, we humans are tiny. So minute, in fact, that it makes me ponder our significance, our purpose and how much we don’t know. Basically, space opens up a giant can of mental worms for me.
Despite the anxiety it can spark, my interest in the topic usually forces me to face my fears. Lately, it has been hard to avoid any outer-space dialogue at the home front. I blame the dynamic duo of Jupiter and Venus for that. Someone in the house has fancied himself as an astronomer these days, so when he found out that the planetary tag-team was getting cozy up there in space, it was on. Every nighttime drive, ride or walk has included a bit of planet gazing.
Seeing the planets didn’t bother me much, it was rather neat. I think it didn’t cause me stress because they basically looked like super-bright stars, making it easy for my brain to forget that what I was seeing was actually gigantic planets that were HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of miles from us.
Yeah, all that no-overthinking ended tonight when I went to a planet viewing at St. Pete College. The best way I can put it is, things got real…REALLY REAL! I don’t recall ever looking through a telescope prior to this night. Perhaps a toy one as a child, but nothing that would allow me to see a planet or make out craters on the moon.
This is how much stress it caused:
As I waited in the line to view the Jupiter/Venus conjunction, my eyes were fixed on the glowing orbs in the sky. I couldn’t wait to get a better look through the telescope. Skies looked clear, so my chances of a good view seemed high. All of a sudden, Jupiter disappeared. Then Venus faded out. I honestly thought they had disintegrated right before my eyes, which would throw the entire solar system out of whack. In my mind, we were all dead. Turns out, it was a just a cloud. Go figure.
Once my heart rate came back down after the short panic attack, I was back to excited mode. Looking something like a printout taped to the lens, the view of the planets wasn’t quite what I expected, but still intense. In addition to Jupiter and Venus, Saturn was also on view. Plain and simple, I was awestruck. Even as a small, yellowish circle surrounded by rings, it was remarkable. I was looking at a real planet, one that is almost 800 million miles away from me! I will say, the Moon stole the show. It may be in plain view almost every night, but seeing it through a telescope was amazing. I felt so close to that pearly glowing ball, as if I could touch it. A simply beautiful night.