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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Star Gazing

Last week I was on vacation with my family in Cape Cod.  My parents rented a house and they, my brother and wife, and my whole motley family trucked our way out there to sit on the beach and do a whole lot of nothing.   I went for a early morning kayak trip almost every day.   I sat on the beach every day for at least a short period of time, sometimes longer if the children would allow it.  And evenings were filled with card games, late night drinks on the patio, and star gazing.  I didn't do that much star gazing until about half way through the week.  While there was a lot less light pollution than anywhere in Connecticut, you could still tell where the major towns were, the biggest being Hyannis with a white glow being emitted into the sky, noticably blocking out a small portion of the stars.  But that was 30 miles away, and there was still plenty of sky to stare at that wasn't affected significantly.  The first night the whole family stared at the stars, we attempted figuring out what the different constellations are.  I know my Big Dipper and Orion's Belt, but aside from those two, I am useless.  So I suggested the app for a smart phone that allows you to point the phone up at the sky and have the constellation superimposed on stars you actual see through the phone.   I guess you could say it's similar to Pokemon Go except that you are not chasing fictional creatures and actually playing a game, it's merely to learn what the different constellations are.  Let me tell you, it's pretty damned amazing.  Not only does it show you the different constellations, but it also shows you the planets and where they would be, even if you might not be able to see them.  Needless to say, we spent a good amount of time staring at the sky with a phone pointed up at it.  After a while though, arms got tired of holding up the phone and we returned to simply staring at the stars and carrying on whatever conversation we had going at the time.  

It was a few days later that I wound up on the beach, by myself, with a beer and nothing to do but stare out into the distance.   It was a windy night, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky and it seemed as if the sky was exploding with stars.  From my perch on a large rock, ten feet from the crashing waves of Sequetucket Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean, I could see for miles.  Monomoy Island stretches 8 miles down my left, lighted faintly by buoys and the Monomoy lighthouse at its terminus.  Beyond that, 30 miles out to sea, is Nantucket.  I found it at night, (impossible to see from shore during the daylight hours), through light pollution and a faint glow on the horizon which was to large to be any sort of ship, and just hovering just where Nantucket should be.  It was amazing.  More amazing though, was the Milky Way which trailed down over my head right to Nantucket when I arrived on the beach.  Staring out at the different stars, I saw 4 shooting stars within 20 minutes.  Taking it one step further on the amazing scale, I felt how small we all actually are by witnessing the earth move.  No, I didn't have that much to drink where I was moving and thought the earth was, but I witnessed the earth move through the movement of the stars.  When I arrived on the beach, the Milky Way pointed directly towards Nantucket.  A half hour later, it was what looked to be 30 miles to the right and as time went on, it tracked further and further.   I think that was the first time where I consciously saw the stars move, or more accurately the earth move in relation to the stars.  Without such a wide open expanse of sky as I had, it is much harder to notice that type of movement.  While I could have a sat there for hours watching the earth move, eventually the wind took its toll, my beer ran out, and I started getting tired.  Sitting there though, I could picture myself as a mariner in a past life, traveling the oceans in search of meaning, staring at the stars at night, and only worrying about missing the next big storm.  But alas, I am not a mariner, but can still stare at the sky and watch see how small I am in relation to everything else.  It helps put a little perspective on life, something that we all could use.  And while down at the beach staring at the stars, I did not take out my phone to try and figure out what anything was, I just used my own eyes and gazed out into the univers.  

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