Tuesday, June 5, 2012

celestial events

Somewhere in one of the many boxes currently en route from Germany to Tennessee (my parents' household goods), there is a faded purple piece of construction paper with two cut out circles on it. One circle is yellow, the other is black. The black circle is glued over the yellow circle, allowing just a sliver of a yellow crescent to peak from behind.

That is the only tangible piece left from my viewing of the solar eclipse in Hawai'i at the ripe ol' age of five years old. I did not realize how fortunate I was to have had the chance to view such a celestial marvel then. I remember making a box viewer to avoid looking at the sun. I was told repeatedly not to look directly at the sun (I remember reporters making that announcement prior to the viewing). Have you ever told a five year old not to do something? She will. Especially if her name is Elizabeth. Indeed, I peaked at the sun as the moon passed in front of it. The sky turned a purply-dark color. Whenever I read post-apocalyptic novels with descriptions of atomic fallout skies, I think of that solar eclipse sky.

I found out about the astronomy department far too late in my undergraduate school to change degrees, but the skies have always been fascinating to me. If I weren't a historian, I'd be an astronomer. Maybe that comes from being a young astronaut. Maybe it is the concept of mystery resting in worlds that may exist beyond. But maybe it was the craft somebody sat down with 5-year-old me to created, explaining the basic ideas of our solar system.

I am unable to view today's celestial event. I am living in a place where I could only theoretically see 50% of the Venus Transit this evening (if we had no cloud cover, so in reality I am seeing 0% of this event today). Regardless, it is interesting to think about whole worlds moving and rotating and soaring through space and wonder. I like to wonder.

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