The evening news this week has treated us to newly recorded images of many objects which, at the time the they were sent to earth, may no longer have existed. In the time taken for light to travel from the as yet unknown end of the universe, stars previously unknown have birthed and died.
I love watching the stars, like LED Christmas lights pinned to a blanket stretched like a child’s bedroom tent over my head. They all seem to be the same distance from where I lay, just out of reach of my fingers, though in my mind I know the distances from me to them varies.
The sky was black, as though a blanket hung over the window, through which random specks of light shone like fairies posed onstage with flashlights before the notes of the opening accompaniment. It was the first night in a while that wasn’t roofed in with thick clouds.
Three huge spotlights marked a triangle against the otherwise black surface.Continue reading Dinner and a show
Last week, an unmanned spaceship named New Horizons, nine months after departing Earth, zipped within 8,000 miles of our last planet, and continued on toward … well, we’re really not sure what it will find. But that’s the point of such trips, isn’t it.
In the same week, while peering through a telescope we’ve stationed about 93 million miles from the site of a certain well-known terran battlefield, we found, a mere 1,400 light-years from the same battlefield, a planet that might support life as we know it. Imagine a civilization out there staring back at this blue marble we are riding, wondering whether anyone lives here.
I went for a walk in the woods one day with the granddaughters, in search of the source of a creek which flows from the county where I live in south-central Pennsylvania, across the state line into Maryland, and joins the Monocacy River east of Thurmont.
A paper company once owned the particular piece of forest, 2,500 acres of the first tree farm in the state that gave birth to the nation’s forest conservation movement. There was a time when men with axes and horses took to the woods to cut trees and drag them to a nearby road, from whence they could be carted to the mill. Axes gave way to chainsaws, and horses to huge, powerful tractors called “skidders,” but even then, logging was a slow process. I know; I was raised where logging and paper making was the primary industry.
Chainsaws have been replaced by machines with air conditioned cabs from which one operator can virtually denude a mountainside in a matter days, instead of the months or years once required, leaving the owner to pay taxes for several decades while waiting patiently for trees to grow to usable girth. Glatfelter, owner of that 2,500 acres, had decided to sell the land, to let someone else pay the taxes and “call us when you’ve got wood to sell.” … Continue reading …