Life at the bottom of a sea of gas

It’s a good thing I’m not an astronomer. I don’t do well with nights and events that happen in very small windows of time.

I’d love to get a glimpse of Pan-STARRS while it’s on its way through. But will I get to? I doubt it. Even if the weather cooperates, that’s still the time we’re trying to get all the kids to bed. And though I live up on one of the benches, chances are there’ll be mountains in the way, so to see it I’d have to plan ahead enough to arrange to be out of town somewhere.

I remember a few years back when we found out the ISS would be passing over our house just after sundown so we would be able to see it. We went outside with the kids several nights in a row and watched it go over. Never underestimate the power of imagination. All it looked like was a star moving very quickly overhead–little more than an airplane with its lights on steady, but just knowing what it was somehow made it awe inspiring. There are people up there. we could see them–and they could probably see our city all lit up.

I know a lot of people just don’t get it, but I love all things space and astronomy. I think it’s extraordinarily cool that we have robotic space probes running around above and on Mars. I thrill at the pictures we get back from the Hubble Space Telescope–and that we were able to send up a team to fix it and extend its life.

I remember getting up in the wee hours of the morning to watch the early space shuttle launches. I made certain I got to pay my own tribute to the Challenger astronauts at the memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. And the latest announcement of a privately-funded expedition to send a couple to orbit Mars and back fills me with both a rush of adventure and a chill of dread.

It’s amazing, actually, that I don’t write more science fiction.

I’m going to try to get a look at the comet over the next few weeks before it’s gone. Even though we get two pretty spectacular fly-bys this year, this is not something that happens every day. The last one I saw was Hale-Bopp back in 1997. It wasn’t easy to make out, but I got to see it.

I understand ISON, coming late this year, is going to blow them all away. I can’t wait! A comet we might even be able to see in daylight? And I’ll be alive to see it? Cool! Space is awesome!

What’s my point here? No point, really. Just a little fan-boy glee.

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