It is 5:40 AM. Daylight savings time just ended two days ago so I really don’t get to take credit for being up early since the biological clock thinks it is 6:40 AM.
I always enjoy this time of year but not as much as I do in Ohio. In Ohio the season actually changes in a big way: the leaves turn color and fall off the trees, the temperature turns from warm to crisp to cold and everyone is watching Ohio State football. Here, it does get slightly colder, there is a little less fog, the ocean waves are bigger and sometimes there is a little bit of rain but other than that there isn’t much difference from the summer.
One thing that marks the change of the season for me here, which I could never see in Ohio is Orion. Orion appears in the southern sky very early in the morning before the sun has any influence. Normally, the weather isn’t very comfortable to sit outside and watch the stars for long but this morning it was perfect. There was very little wind and the temperature was perfect in that only a housecoat was needed. In Ohio there was always too much light pollution to see very many stars and I don’t believe I was ever up early enough to see the early morning stars anyway.
Being next to the ocean provides natural protection against light pollution since people cannot build on it and turn on a bunch of lights. San Francisco to the north is extremely bright so I need to look south or west over the ocean to see many stars. Being next to the ocean has also allowed me to grasp the movements of the heavens much better than I ever have when I couldn’t see the stars. In school we’re taught that the earth is spinning and thus the sun just appears to be moving when actually it is the earth. That is easy enough to understand but what I never realized is that the earth is actually tilted and thus when it is summer in the northern hemisphere it is winter in the southern hemisphere. This was plain to see as I watch the sunsets throughout the year; the sun sets farther north during our summer until the solstice then retreats south until the winter solstice. The sun sets in different locations throughout the year! I never knew that.
Another discovery was that the planets also follow almost the same line across the sky as the sun. I can go out onto my patio and am now able to recognize the ones which can be seen with the naked eye. Furthermore, I also never grasped the difference between stars and planets when looking up at the sky simply because I never knew which ones were actually planets when I looked up! Now I know that a few of those ‘stars’ that follow a similar path are actually planets and all the others are actually suns! Then I think that just about all of them must have planets revolving around them and on some of those planets are life forms. Here I am looking up at their sun, identifying the name and seeing which constellation they are in. I then imagine how many thousands of life forms out there are looking at our sun and we’re part of one of their constellations! Being able to see the stars really expands the mind and imagination.
I’ve never been able to see the Milky Way with my own eyes. When I tell my friends from Australia and New Zealand this it is often met with disbelief. I cannot imagine how awe inspiring it must be and how the constellations must truly leap out at you. Then to take this one level further I think of the quote by astronaut Al Worden who said:
The sky is just awash with stars when you’re on the far side of the moon, and you don’t have any sunlight to cut down on the lower intensity, dimmer stars. You see them all, and it’s all just a sheet of white.
I’d love to see the Milky Way or even better what Al saw on the far side of the Moon. How insignificant it would make one feel: we are nothing more than slightly advanced monkeys who kill each other, pollute the planet, and sometimes, on very few occasions, create things of beauty and love. And in our tiny minds many believe that we were created in the image of that which made the entire universe. If we were honest with ourselves, we’d realize that humanity isn’t much better than the monkey slinging poop in his zoo cage in comparison to what must be out there in the universe. And in saying that I believe I’ve disparaged the monkey!
And to drive this point home, today is election day. We have to choose between Clinton and Trump and it is shameful to say many Americans and even people I know are choosing Trump. They just aren’t sophisticated enough to see that he is a VERY bad choice. Nobody really likes Hillary but electing someone like Trump just shows how naive, unsophisticated, downright dumb, many people are.
Looking up at those stars I wish a more intelligent species would come down and save humanity from itself. Given the way things are in 2016 I’m pretty certain World War Three is certain to occur sometime in the next three hundred years and civilization, nations and the way things look here on Earth in general will be much different. It is better for the monkeys to not be in possession of nukes.