Star-crossed encounter with the night sky
Updated: April 18, 2012 5:29PM
Sometimes we’re so focused on ourselves that we fail to look outside ourselves.
So it was for me one night last week. I was focused on taking out the garbage. OK, maybe I was more focused on deciphering why the boys don’t do their chores and I end up taking out the garbage.
For just a moment I looked up and saw it — a streak of green light in the western sky just above the treetops racing to earth. A neighbor must be shooting off fireworks, I thought to myself. I completed the task of throwing out the trash, took one look back over my shoulder to see if anything else was out there, and walked back inside the house.
I went on with the mundane life of a suburban dad, not even bothering to log onto Facebook and ask my friends: “Did you see that?”
Apparently, other suburbanites who saw the same thing did turn to Facebook and Twitter. Some even called the national weather service.
Turns out the green streak of light I saw was a shooting star, a meteor crossing the night sky.
And, according to the witnesses who also saw it, it was a real humdinger.
Brightest one he ever saw, some night sky stalker told the press.
Am I so lost in my own world that I saw the celestial sight of perhaps a lifetime and merely said, “Ho-hum, that job is done?”
The night sky is not something we think about too much anymore.
One reason for the boredom? There just isn’t that much to see.
Light pollution in our area, maybe even across the United States, is the plague of modern life. I bet most of us wouldn’t even recognize the night sky our ancestors saw and knew so well.
Maybe it is an urban legend, but I heard that when some twenty-somethings first saw the Milky Way, they were so freaked out by it they called 911.
Since I heard that story a few years ago, I’ve occasionally sought out the Milky Way. I’d look for it on clear, dark nights. I wouldn’t find it. Instead, I’d look up at the few lonely stars or planets I could see, then go back to doing whatever it was I was doing — reading news articles on the computer, messing with Facebook. I haven’t seen the great trail of our galaxy in decades, since when I was just a boy and stargazing seemed like an honorable profession.
In the modern world, we don’t need to see stars the way our ancestors did. We have GPS.
We’ve deciphered the universe and store all the info on our hip in that compact wonder machine that doubles as a telephone.
As I said, we are very inner-focused.
Thankfully, later this month there will be a chance for us to look up and outward.
The news of last week’s shooting star prompted news stories that reminded us that the Lyrid meteor shower will appear in the overnight skies of April 21-22.
So I’m urging my fellow suburbanites to get rid of the garbage that might be roiling our inner souls, and look up on the night of April 21-22 to see something beyond ourselves.
They say we are made of stardust. It is good every so often to take a look at where we came from.