The stars are out tonight, and not the ones on the red carpet. The moon is brilliant here with Jupiter and Venus sharing the spotlight. They were so bright they showed up on my phone’s camera. I’ve always been excited by the night sky, and tonight was unusually lucid. You could even see the fingerprint smudge of the Orion Nebula below the constellation’s sparkling belt. The Milky Way was a speckled patina on the dark sky, and you could look up and see deep into space. I’ve always loved those moments, when I can look up and see the universe.
There was a moment in college, just after sunset, when I could see the soft orange corona of the Sun above the horizon. Venus was creeping just above the rooftops, and, higher in the sky, Mars was making a circuit. I remember that seeing those three bodies so close together, I suddenly had a three-dimensional sense of where Earth was in space: There was Venus, orbiting closer to the star, and there was Mars, farther away, ready to pass us in its turn. I remember a telescopic effect, like zoom lens had been placed on the entire sky: I felt so small, yet also felt the sense of flying through space.
When I was even smaller, I remember coming home from some school event at night, and then looking up at the comet Hale-Bopp. The comet filled up the sky, its blue and silver tails like a bridal veil against the stars. At its height, the comet took up a full quarter of the sky (it seemed to my vision), and it was as if the moon was full every night. I thought it was beautiful.
I love astronomy.