Space Talk

I love reading articles about space, if for no other reason than the vocabulary. Doesn’t everything sound so fantastic with words like “cataclysmic supernova explosion”? The astronomers verbalize it all as such an aggressive, but majestic, phenomenon. Well… I guess it is. My dad has always been intrigued by outer space, and used to hoard books and knowledge gallore about it, so the questions surrounding the unsolved mysteries and the daunting beauty of the universe were imressed upon me at a very young age. I remember when I was about 11 years old, I was visiting him in Sarnia and he was explaining to me what a black hole was. I’d heard about them before, from flipping through all his books, but then he actually told me how they work. I don’t think I heard anything he was saying, except for the part where he mentioned what would happen to the earth if it was ever sucked in to the event horizon (again, how cool does that sound? They could have just called it a gravitational spiral or something). All of a sudden black holes were my new paranoia, and I remember my grandmother calling my dad an asshole after that, cursing those “god damn black holes” because I was afraid to go to sleep. I was even having nightmares of myself looking up at the sky and seeing a giant black hole about to suck us up. It was honestly ridiculous haha.

But they really are amazing – scary, but amazing. I don’t understand the physics or mathematics of them, but the basic idea of what they do is incredible.

Last summer when my family was up to visit and we were all sitting on the beach telling stories, we happened to all to be staring up at the sky – something I actually don’t do very often. We had binoculars with us, so we took turns investigating the heavens. It’s something I really need to do on a regular basis when it’s nice outside, because nothing is more awesome than staring up at the great mystery that created us and witnessing really neat and curious goings-on of the universe. For example, my niece spotted an interesting cluster of stars, of which contained three stars in nearly perfect alignment, one of which seemed to have a ring around it. You couldn’t see it that clearly and had to stare at it for a few seconds and let your eyes adjust before you could make it out, but we all sat and wondered if it was Saturn and its moons. Just the thought of it blew my mind, that I could actually see a planet – only because I’d never seen one in the sky before (that I’m aware of). The idea of just how far away it is, and that I could see it, was amazing.

We saw a satellite or two racing across the sky, which still fascinates me. I recall when Hale-Bopp was witnessed back in 1997 and it was such a huge deal for everyone because it was the next best thing to seeing Halley’s Comet, which only passes every 75 years. I did see Hale-bop, and it was pretty awesome. I remember that it didn’t look like it was moving very fast from where we are, and I was disappointed that it didn’t shoot across the sky like I expected it to (although, technically it was). I wonder how Heaven’s Gate is enjoying the ride.

I don’t think I’ve seen a shooting star yet, which really bums me out because I’ve been sitting beside people who spot them and by the time I look up, they’re gone.

Space is such a cool subject, though. I met a guy named Dr. John Grant who worked as one of the team leaders responsible for the activity/movement of one of the Mars Rovers. Here’s a link to the institute’s write-up advertising it. He actually made the decisions for where the Rover went and what it did. He was giving a lecture at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, and I decided to cover it for my college paper. It turned out to be one of the coolest assignments I ever had, because I not only got to sit and listen to these incredible stories and explanations, but I got to sit down with him one-on-one in an empty auditorium after the lecture and interview him. He was unbelievably down-to-earth and so passionate about his job, even after hours when he’s probably been talking about it all day for weeks on end. And he was very willing to explain things to me in layman’s terms. You have to admire the brains someone like him has. Here’s a guy who studied geology in the Ivy League, in the flesh, and who is operating machinery on Mars – a planet that a human has never stepped foot on, that likely contained alien life and which is about 78 million km away. Wrap your mind around that. Just as looking at the moon in the night sky and thinking that humans have walked up there continues to amaze me, so too does seeing Mars as a tiny pin point and knowing there are man-made vehicles roaming around it as we speak.

Mars, from the pictures I’ve seen, is so beautiful. In nearly every picture it looks like twilight, which is my favourite time of day, and it looks so relaxing and peaceful, even though I know it’s colder than hell. I hope I’m still alive to see humans travel there. That’ll be the most exciting thing that’s happened in our civilized history.

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