Who Needs Sleep!
For an atheist such as myself, the closest I come to having a religious experience is usually associated with some sort of spectacular natural event; something that makes it clear to me just how awesome the Universe is. This morning was one of those times. I got up at 4:45 am to watch the last total eclipse of the Moon until some time in 2014. It was well worth getting out of my warm bed to do so.
I took out a pair of low-power binoculars and two cameras. I hand-held my Canon EOS 10D and mounted my wife’s 50D on a tripod. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the foresight to learn how to set up the auto shutter release on her camera and, when the Moon entered totality there just wasn’t enough light to get a shot without using a long exposure. I got some decent pictures as the Earth’s penumbra slowly moved across the lunar surface and I’m hopeful they’re better than I expect. My eyesight is slowly dwindling and it’s difficult for me to tell if things are truly in proper focus. I’ll check them out later when I take the time to upload them from the card on which they now reside.
Nevertheless, as I watched our nearby satellite slowly fall behind our planet’s shadow, I was mesmerized by the thought of how enormous the three celestial bodies involved in this display are – compared to us – and how insignificant the whole show is in relationship to the rest of the Universe. I find these events incredibly awe-inspiring and am always humbled when I contemplate their scale. Think about it. The Moon is approximately two days away at the greatest speeds we’ve been able to achieve. It’s only about two light-seconds away. Our galaxy (The Milky Way) is approximately 100,000 light years in diameter and contains, perhaps, as many a 200 Billion stars. Current estimates put the number of Galaxies in the Universe at up to 500 Billion! That makes for an awful lot of stars.
The sure knowledge that I may be incredibly important to my wife and my children (not to mention me, myself, and I), but I really don’t matter much in the grand scheme of things is damn near paralyzing in its implications. Somehow, though, I have managed to meander fairly meaningfully through my life. I’m grateful for that!
The best views I got were with my small, 8-power binoculars I chose as a service award when I worked for The Boeing Company at what is now Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. I’ve had them quite some time and they do come in handy on occasion. I watched until the Moon was just about to disappear behind a tree, though distant, high, wispy clouds had pretty much obscured my view.
I also woke my 10-year-old, put my jacket on her, and carried her outside so she could see it. Last night she was anxious to view an eclipse of the Moon, but this morning was a slightly different story. So she got to see it, then got to go right back to sleep. Hope she remembers. I know I will.
Photo courtesy of The Sustainability Ninja