And no, it’s not a wedding.
A Youtube user has paired some original photography with a recording of “Manzanita,” my favorite tune by legendary flat-picker Tony Rice and his band, the Tony Rice Unit. It’s a modal newgrass melody that goes very well with the gorgeous flowers:
But this song will forever remind me of green valleys and brightly painted farmhouses overlooking the misty sea along Oregon’s northern coast, particularly near the quaint little town of Manzanita. As glad as I am to be home, sometimes I can’t wait to get back there.
Deputy Dog, working from a variety of sources, put together earlier this month a collection of 11 breathtaking photos of the Earth from space. My favorite happens to be this one, a capture of the transit of the moon’s shadow across our planet during the solar eclipse of August 11, 1999, taken from the space station Mir:
It could rightly be said that, in this modern age, our civilization is struggling to come to grips with the achievements of science and the exponential growth of our species in ways personal and societal, in terms of today and of the outlook for the decades and centuries which expand before us in our imaginings of the tapestry of forever. These are disorienting times. It is good for us, then, I think, to spend whiles with images such as these. I am reminded of Carl Sagan’s apt commentary from a 1994 Cornell lecture, which he paired with the following photo, then (and probably still) the most distant photograph of Earth, taken by Voyager 1 in 1990 at a distance of four billion miles:
“We succeeded in taking that picture, and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.
The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Those are severely illuminating words from one of the greatest of modern minds.
Just a bit ago, I stepped outside to notice that a full Moon, Mars, and Venus were all in the sky, and aligned across it from west to east in a nearly perfect line.
Considering the difference in the distance between Earth and Mars and the distance between Earth and the Andromeda Galaxy, I’d say that’s quite the family moment.
Soon Dad will come stumbling and grumbling over the eastern horizon, and it’ll be time to cook breakfast.
Check out Aussie photographer Steve Selbst’s incomparable capture of the moon during last month’s total eclipse (pic links to artist’s page on Flickr).
The eclipse of August 28, 2007 was especially noteworthy because of its unusual length, clocking in at over an hour and a half in the depths of the shadow. It was not visible throughout Europe, Africa, and western Asia; in the Americas we caught it just as the moon was setting and the sun was coming up in the morning, while east Asia and Australia had been treated earlier, at moonrise. No one really got to see this eclipse in full glory, but it was very interesting in its orientation near the horizon, nonetheless.
The next total eclipse of the moon will occur on February 21, 2008. Its totality will last only about 51 minutes, but it will be at least mostly visible to the entirety of the world except east Asia and Australia.
If you caught wind of those ridiculous emails claiming that, on August 27, the planet Mars was going to be so close to Earth as to appear “about the same size as the moon,” et cetera, ad nauseum, take heart—snopes.com has a thorough exposé on the subject. Mars did come unusually close to Earth in August of 2003, but even at such a unique perigee, the red planet still appeared as little more than an auspiciously bright point in the heavens. If you ever do happen to catch a moon-sized Mars in the sky, well . . . it’s probably fair warning to have that last beer for old times’ sake.