Tag Archives: space

The Real Deal

In the early 1960s I was in grade school, and my mother let me stay home to watch NASA’s Mercury and Gemini spacecraft launches on TV. We’d follow the whole exciting run-up and count-down, and cheer for blast-off, willing the fiery ship up, up and away into space.

This gave me my life-long love of space travel stories. Every moment of Star Trek the original series, the next generation, the movies. Star Wars amazed me with its realistic hardware, like Luke’s rusty little flying car – it felt so real!  I never miss a space flick on the big screen if I can help it.

I carried my space fandom into adulthood, thrilled when the Shuttle began to fly, and devastated when the Challenger burst apart before my eyes in the Florida sky. Then we lost Columbia, and the shuttle missions withered to an end.

While we may not be launching as many humans into orbit, NASA has stayed busy with amazing planetary missions and probes bringing us closer to the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets.

Today, the incredible Cassini mission to Saturn and its moons begins its final mission, 20 years after it lifted off from earth. For nearly 13 years Cassini has amazed with the data and imagery from the moons, rings and storms of Saturn.

Watch this. This is epic space opera, folks. And this one is REAL.

 

“Don’t You Wonder Sometimes?”

I heard poet Tracy K. Smith read her poem by this name on Studio 360‘s tribute to David Bowie. Tracy won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for her collection called “Life on Mars,” inspired in part by the Starman in his many identities.  She credits him with showing her “the imagination as something that is capable of creating a whole new world and a whole new sense of self.”

I thought it was a pretty fabulous poem.
“Don’t You Wonder Sometimes” — Tracy K. Smith 

1.
After dark, stars glisten like ice, and the distance they span
Hides something elemental. Not God, exactly. More like
Some thin-hipped glittering Bowie-being – a Starman
Or cosmic ace hovering, swaying, aching to make us see.
And what would we do, you and I, if we could know for sure

That someone was there squinting through the dust,
Saying nothing is lost, that everything lives on waiting only
To be wanted back badly enough? Would you go then,
Even for a few nights, into that other life where you
And that first she loved, blind to the future once, and happy?

Would I put on coat and return to the kitchen where my
Mother and father sit waiting, dinner keeping warm on the stove?
Bowie will never die. Nothing will come for him in his sleep
Or charging through his veins. And he’ll never grow old,
Just like the woman you lost, who will always be dark-haired

And flush-faced, running toward an electronic screen
That clocks the minutes, the miles left to go. Just like the life
In which I’m forever a child looking out my window at the night sky
Thinking one day I’ll touch the world with bare hands
Even if it burns.

2.
He leaves no tracks. Slips past, quick as a cat. That’s Bowie
For you: the Pope of Pop, coy as Christ. Like a play
Within a play, he’s trademarked twice. The hours

Plink past like water from a window A/C. We sweat it out,
Teach ourselves to wait. Silently, lazily, collapse happens.
But not for Bowie. He cocks his head, grins that wicked grin.

Time never stops, but does it end? And how many lives
Before take-off, before we find ourselves
Beyond ourselves, all glam-glow, all twinkle and gold?

The future isn’t what it used to be. Even Bowie thirsts
For something good and cold. Jets blink across the sky
Like migratory souls.

3.
Bowie is among us. Right here
In New York City. In a baseball cap
And expensive jeans. Ducking into
A deli. Flashing all those teeth
At the doorman on his way back up.
Or he’s hailing a taxi on Lafayette
As the sky clouds over at dusk.
he’s in no rush. Doesn’t feel
The way you’d think he feels.
Doesn’t strut or gloat. Tells jokes.

I’ve lived here all these years
And never seen him. Like not knowing
A comet from a shooting star.
But I’ll bet he burns bright,
Dragging a tail of white-hot matter
The way some of us track tissue
Back from the toilet stall. He’s got
The whole world under his foot,
And we are small alongside,
Though there are occasions
When a man his size can meet
Your eyes for just a blip of time
And send a thought like SHINE
SHINE SHINE SHINE SHINE
Straight to your mind. Bowie,
I want to believe you. Want to feel
Your will like the wind before the rain.
The kind everything simply obeys,
Swept up in that hypnotic dance
As if something with the power to do so
Had looked its way and said:
Go ahead.

Pluto and the Texture of the Infinite

Horsehead Nebula

In ancient times, (or when I was in grade school) the planets were  very smooth, like billiard balls. We had no detailed images, only descriptions of what they might be. Images of the galaxies and nebulas were quaintly fuzzy.

This recent Hubble image of Horsehead Nebula shows a different animal.

Over the past 40 years we humans have sharpened our focus. The Hubble Space Telescope and numerous planetary explorations have yielded not only amazing data but astonishingly detailed images as well.

Dramatic view of the Pluto system as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew in for close-up on July 14; then passed behind Pluto to see the atmosphere glow before watching the sun passes behind Pluto’s largest moon, Charon.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Stuart Robbins

Watch this a few times and enjoy the ride: how you find the bright dot in all that darkness, spiral in, and then glory in the uniquely Plutonian landscape. This, the orb that had it’s planetary status revoked! 

(You may find it odd that I am adamantly pro science and still hark to astrology, but consider hearing me out. The following gives a cultural perspective on the ninth rock from the sun.)

Astrologically Pluto has a profound gravitas, the inescapable resonance of the everpresent but unseen, representing our own soul.

Prominant Astrologers had some interesting things to say about Pluto’s change in status.

from Rob Brezhny of Free Will Astrology:

Scientists no doubt had sound, rational reasons to exile Pluto from the traditional solar system and transfer its realm to the Kuiper Belt with the other dwarf worlds, but they were also under the influence of deeply unconscious forces too. The expulsion of Pluto marked a symbolic turning point in the triumph of scientism, a mode of thinking that values only what’s visible, measurable, and categorizable. But Pluto is more than the rocky planetoid representing it: Pluto is an essential phase of human consciousness.

The overall downgrading of Pluto is a milestone in the modern attempt to depreciate the soul’s mode of awareness and make it subsidiary to the deductive mind. To banish Pluto is to deny that living in the soul has any value to us.

See how smooth it looks? Now watch the video with actual photos.

Visionary Activist Caroline Casey offers this:

The god of the Underworld, was amused by being called “Dead as a planet.” “Of course I’m dead, I’m the god of the dead.”

And used to being dissed, exiled, albeit at tremendous cost to cultures that do so. Of course human dementors would like to stick their fingers in their ears, and say, “no, no, no, we deny the invisible. We deny the dead, the invisible, the principle of power, the abuse of power known as plutocracy, now rampant.” Death is cheap, not valued, marketed wholesale, so that even the god of death is appalled.

 

Miraculous Sounds of Spring

If you heard this sound, would you think it was?

click to play audio

At first listen, you might think you were hearing something like this:

click to play audio

That’s a sound it’s good to hear in the woods these days. The mid-Atlantic winter has been hard on us, and the singing of frogs brings hope that today’s Spring Equinox has really arrived.

Those are ‘spring peepers,’ tiny chorus frogs that awaken and sing in vernal puddles each year in forest wetlands. They’re tiny: adults rarely more than an inch and a half in length. I am transported by the sound: these durable creatures rise from the frozen mud and sing for love in one of the first bright declarations of spring.

But even more miraculous that these singing amphibians is the first recording. Play it again. What you’re listening to is the dawn chorus of the planet Earth, sounds emitted by the energetic particles of the earth’s magnetosphere, stimulated by the solar wind.

These radio waves are at frequencies which are audible to the human ear, if sound traveled in a vacuum, and if you could expose your ear in space! Here they were recorded by two satellites studying the Van Allen belts and other phenomena of the near solar system.

Happy Equinox!

Close or Far

When Jose and I visited the Grand Canyon we were admiring the Temple of Shiva, a mesa standing apart from the North Rim. In the late afternoon light the warm colors of the canyon were increasingly spectacular, and Shiva was shimmering in violet, rose and gold. After a few moments Jose went to read an info-graphic nearby, and came back to report that the Temple was over 9 miles away. Not only that, but the North Rim in general was 14 to 18 miles away. Our jaws dropped, minds boggled, and we were challenged to believe our eyes.

Temple of Shiva is the highest point on the horizon

NINE MILES? Really? We could see it so clearly!

One of the great pleasures of the west is the mind sensation of seeing over such vast spaces. It certainly draws visitors to the Canyon. I know I gloried in the many broad vistas we enjoyed in our travels. Even in crowded the Bay Area a trip across any of the bridges opened up into a soaring space. Our visit to Marin Highlands was literally dizzying for me.  I could swim, fly, soar and plunge in all that magnificent visual space.

bayPanarama
click for larger version

I learned a new word from Astrologer Rob Brezhny in this week’s reading. He writes:

The German word *Fernweh* can be translated as “wanderlust.” Its literal meaning is “farsickness,” or “an ache for the distance.”

Now that I’m back in lush, forested Southern Maryland, I’m finding the intimate treed locations to be claustrophobic. I am grateful or the shade, I love the greens, the rustling sounds, the many, many birds. But I’m pining for the wide-open spaces where my mind’s eye can soar. I am so glad to be home, my lovely home and friends, yet I am experiencing farsickness, feeling it like a physical longing in my bones. I am aching for distance, pining for that vastness, that wilderness of a scale that swamps my ability to measure it.

Brezhny quotes poet Robert Haas:

We call it “longing” because desire is full of endless distances.

In the rest of my weekly reading the astrologer challenges me and other Scorpios to explore the yearning and the distance, and find ways to bridge the gulf. I know that I feel much more in possession of my citizenship of this vast country, having made this trip. I stayed connected to a close friend who was moving away, in fact deepened our relationship. Attending a business conference far from home, I cemented  relationships with colleagues and potential partners all across the country. I’ve spanned some great distances within myself, stretching to be connected to people in new ways.

And I am remembering how I carry those great spaces within myself. I can return to that canyon rim in my meditation and feel the sensation of awe that reminds me:

(I am large; I contain multitudes)

Now, where shall I go from here?