Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Moon Is Kissing Mars.

Being willing to look upward once in a while really pays off. I still remember standing in the parking lot of a Las Vegas casino many years ago watching a lunar eclipse, while all around me streams of people passed by without a single one of them taking any notice, leaving me wondering whether I ought to feel more privileged or sad.

Tonight, I happened to look up at the full moon, noticed that there was a bright object very nearly touching it, where no star should possibly be visible, and realized with a sudden jolt that it was Mars. I'm not sure why, but there is something incredibly, unbelievably cool about being able to look in a straight line past the moon and see Mars right behind it, 55 million miles farther away. It gives me a strong sense, I guess, that these things in the sky are real objects, actual bodies in physical space, rather than simply abstract lights, and that the place where I'm standing is a body hanging in space, too.

Awesome. Absolutely awesome. And made all the more awesome by the fact that right now Mars is as close to us as it ever gets, and thus as bright as it ever gets in our sky.

If the moon is up where you are, go outside and look!

7 comments:

  1. It better get far away from us when/if that asteroid hits it! Just kidding. We were looking up at the full moon but I didn't see the Mars thing, but then heaven help you if you can see the sky in the Northwest in December.

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  2. I think 56 million miles is probably safe. :)

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  3. ooh...I'll check tonight. The moon is full. Hope it'll be bright.

    Merry Christmas! :)

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  4. Don't think it'll be as close tonight, but by all mean, look up and see!

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  5. Saw it last night. Put into perspective that Mars is so much more distant than the Moon and therefore makes the heavens(to us laypeople)have depth instead of a flat sky. Make sense?

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  6. Makes perfect sense, yes! The sky, after all, may look like an inverted bowl, but space is, well, a lot more three-dimensional than it looks.

    And, of course, keeping in mind that Mars is in fact much bigger than the moon, and yet appears as such a tiny dot beside it, gives you a sense of the amazing scale of the solar system, too.

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  7. You should feel privileged that, with all the lights in Las Vegas, you were able to see the moon at all.

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