Have you ever had one of those days where nothing seems to go right? Where, when night falls and the long day begins to fade in your memory, you can only remember the problems that befell you? I've had a few of those days this year (actually, many more than a few but I really don't want to get into that here; it's been a really long year) and I think I've finally found an answer for those miserable moments. I go outside, look up at the twinkling stars in the heavens, and let the day drain away.
Granted, that's pretty tough to do on those cloudy nights we seem to have an overabundance of in southwest Michigan, but I can still get my stargazing fix once in a while. And I'm not talking about a long, focused observing session. I'm not even talking about knocking off a few items on my Herschel 400 list. I'm talking about sitting out under the blanket of the sky, peering into the depths of space, and letting my mind wander those infinite paths through the heavens.
Sure, I still love to dance through the stars looking for the various and sundry faint, deep sky objects that shimmer like ghosts in my telescope. I still enjoy watching the slow and stately motion of the moons of Jupiter, the divine rings of Saturn, and the haunting emptiness of the Moon's foreboding landscape. But occasionally, especially on those nights after a long, miserable day, I just like sitting out in my backyard and staring off into space.
My thoughts turn to questions still unanswered. Are we all there is in this vast universe like? When did it all begin? What was the universe like in those early days after the Big Bang? Where will our destiny lead us? To Mars? To the moons of Jupiter and Saturn? Beyond the reaches of our Sun and to other, nearby solar systems? Why have we been so privileged to live in a universe so vast and unending and beautiful?
We human beings have always been a curious race; we continually seek new adventures, new challenges, new knowledge. And all those things are endless in this vast, incomprehensible, magnificent place we call home. So you see, when I have had a "bad" day, it never really sticks with me because I have a place to go and visit that brings out the best in me. It's a place where the imagination soars and the spirit thrives. It's the most beautiful place around...it's the sky just above my backyard and it reaches to forever.
May your nights be clear and unending.
Mike Sinclair is currently serving his fifth consecutive term as President of the Kalamazoo Astronomical Society. He is also a teacher of Physics, Astronomy and Geology at the Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center.