Tuesday, September 05, 2006


When I had my latest processing misadventures it gave me a chance to see something I hadn't seen in a while. I was in Prescott, AZ at about 4am. The night was pitch black and there isn't a lot of ambient light in Prescott. As I was standing outside my GOV I stretched back and as my head tilted I came eye-to-eye with the most glorious sky I'd ever seen.

From horizon to horizon it was nothing but pinpricks of light. A scene I'd last observed in an astronomy lab back at SFA. I knew that Phoenix's lights and pollution blocked most of the stars leaving me with but a sample that consists of Orion's Belt and either Venus or Mars. But I'd never had the difference cast into such stark contrast. It was stunning and I was rendered quiet for a moment while I gazed in awe.

I've always had an affinity for the stars. Not in a predict-the-future way but in a glory of creation way. The distance and scales involved boggle the mind. I hold a perticular affinity for Eta Carinae because it's likely the biggest of the big. At a mass between 100 times the size of the Sun Eta Carinae represents the upper bound for stellar formation. Stars this massive lead short, violent lives. The pictures of the dust shedded by the star over its lifetime make for a beautiful, radiant cloud. Its eventual death will be unlike anything anyone alive at the time will ever see. It's even possible that the death of Eta Carinae will affect Earth 7,500 light years, 44,068,322,981,366,456 miles (give or take an exit or two) away. It's unlikely that it will harm life on Earth as was once thought, but it's possible that it could affect satellites in orbit.

At some point I must make an effort to go back north some clear evening. In a job where I'm on the road and hating people as much as I sometimes do it's nice to take a break and be awed by one's own insignifigance and the associated beauty of the rest of creation. Some Soldier's Mom, I'm jealous that it's something you get to see every night.


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