THE BRIGHT SPOT ON A DARK DAY

Venus in the night sky. Photo courtesy of symania.com

Today is a remarkable day. It has been said that this is the first day of the rest of your life. Today is the very last day exactly like it, so make it a good one. It is the last day you can see the very same sunset. It is the last day you can experience anything quite like you experience it in this sliver of time. That being said, you can look up into the spring night sky tonight and every night for a reminder to look for the bright spots on any given dark day. The planet Venus, the second planet from the sun, was the brightest planet in the sky in March and has been super bright all 2020. Some people with excellent vision can even see Venus in the day time sky. Tonight, however, is very special. It is the last day exactly like it, as Venus is at its brightest and brilliance of the year tonight (smithsonianmag.com).

Photo of Venus in the Western Sky in March, taken by Garry Beckstrom of Beckstrom Observatory

“My best friend gave me the best advice
He said each day’s a gift and not a given right
Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind
And try to take the path less traveled by
That first step you take is the longest stride…

….If today was your last day
Would you make your mark by mending a broken heart?
You know it’s never too late to shoot for the stars
Regardless of who you are
So do whatever it takes
Cause you can’t rewind a moment in this life
Let nothin’ stand in your way
Cause the hands of time are never on your side…”

-“If Today Was Your Last Day” song by Nickelback

Enjoy the ALL the moments today and be on the look out for that bright spot on any given day. Shoot for the stars. See each day as a gift. Carpe Diem, friends……………

COPING WITH CORONA WITH A LITTLE MAGIC IN THE SKY WITH MY COZY PINK FLEECE BLANKET

I love a good meteor shower. I love any meteor shower. Last night, I decided to shake it up a little. I stayed up late to get my best shot of seeing the Lyrid meteor shower, which was supposed to be best between the hours of 2 AM and 5 AM. I just knew I would never get up early to see it, so it was much better for this ol’ night owl to see it LATE at night instead.

I went outside through my front door with my cozy little pink fleece blanket, as I knew I would have the best shot to see the Lyrid Meteor Showers facing the East or Northeast direction of the sky looking straight up. I knew everyone else was asleep in the neighborhood, so I put my blanket down on the grass and lay across it so I could look directly up into the sky. It had been a year or so since I’ve been supine across a blanket looking up into the night sky for the meteor shower. Normally I just “catch a glimpse” of it, but this year I wanted to see it in all its glory. Let me tell you, there are LOTS of sounds in the night at 2:00 AM in suburban America. I heard the wind swaying the Palmetto fronds with a slow and methodical swish swish sound. I heard animals in the distance and realized I wasn’t quite sure if snakes sleep at night or are most active. I couldn’t help but think that my warm body was a perfect place for a slithering reptile to crawl up against, thinking I was some type of heat rock. I tried not to let that dim my excitement, but I decided after a while it probably wasn’t the best idea being in the middle of my front yard, all alone, at 2 AM. I convinced myself to stay for fifteen minutes, and then I would go back inside where I, and any other sane person, belonged. T minus fourteen….T minus thirteen…..T minus twelve……holding my breath, waiting in anticipation, waiting for a little magic in the night sky to take my breath away. T minus eleven…..T minus ten….now WHAT was I thinking…..T minus nine…..T minus eight…….WAIT……THERE IT IS! Right before my eyes, I saw a dart of bright light race across the sky, my sky, in the blink of an eye. It was bright, bold, and beautiful. If I had been looking in another direction, I surely would have missed it. Isn’t that like everything in life, I thought to myself. One has to be ready, willing, and able, to use a colloquial expression, to see the magic, to see the beauty, to see the opportunities spread out before oneself. I decided seeing one big beautiful streak of light was well worth the wait and ventured back inside my house, back into my comfort zone.

About ten minutes later, I decided I would step out of my comfort zone once again, even for fifteen minutes, to see more of the night sky in all its splendor. I went back outside but this time leaned against the porch in case any slithering reptiles decided to inch their way towards me. Again, when I stepped out of my comfort zone, I was rewarded with seeing two more trails of light before my eyes. This time, they were not as bold and bright but beautiful nonetheless. I tried not to compare them to the showing I had just a little while earlier in the same sky and to accept them for what they were: a little slice of magic in the night sky, revealed to me after I stepped out of my comfort zone.

When I was thinking about my expectations for that second jaunt outside to see the meteor shower again, I immediately thought of the lyrics to one of Bruce Springsteen’s songs…..

“Show a little faith; there’s magic in the night,
You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright,
Oh and that’s alright with me….”

-“Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen

The lighter set of streaks in the sky, I knew right away, were “alright with me” because there WAS “magic” in the night last night to be sure. I can’t wait to see the Perseid Meteor Showers again in August. I’ll even mark it on my calendar this year.

Life is good. Step out of your comfort zone whenever you can to discover or experience something new, or to discover something all over again. Life is good; life is a gift.

Carpe diem, friends……………………..

ID 173767577 © Lunartsstudio, ID 123749459 © Mahod84 | Dreamstime.com

LIFE THROUGH A LENS….”SHINE BRIGHT LIKE A DIAMOND”

It always amazes what I don’t know that I don’t know. With both a whole wide world and a world wide web around me and with access to a barrage of information at any given point in the day, I am always amazed at what I have missed. When I was in elementary school, we were told that Saturn’s rings were comprised of rock. I’m not sure if we even knew there is a great deal of ice in the rings of Saturn at that time. Evidently a whole lot has happened since then. I knew we had sent several probes to Saturn over the last years, but I somehow missed how much information was gathered during the last exploration of Saturn.

It was in 1979 that we first saw Saturn and just a few of its moons in a series of flyby shots from the Pioneer 11 spacecraft. The images were blurry and not good enough to get information about Saturn’s surface.

In 1980 Voyager I did another flyby of Saturn and some of its moons, giving us much better images. We saw the surface features of some moons and atmosphere.

In 1981, Voyager 2 again showed us some more photos and temperature findings as well. We saw that the rings of Saturn had changed as well.

Saturn, courtesy of Dreamstime.com

In was in 1997 that the Titan spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral and carried the Cassini craft that was tasked to find out new information about Saturn, the ringed planet that is the seventh planet away from the sun. In 2002, twenty months from reaching Saturn, the probe captured its first image of Saturn. In 2004, Cassini discovered two new moons around Saturn (Methone and Pallene) to total sixty moons around Saturn. Also in 2004, on June 30, Cassini became the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn, a breathtaking example of technology in action. On January 13, 2005, the unthinkable happened. The Cassini launched a probe, the Huygens probe, which actually landed on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, for seventy-two minutes, which represented the first time, and only time so far, that anything landed on any outer solar system world. Scientists realized that Titan contains large clouds of water vapor above it. Scientists also discovered that there are geysers of liquid water and organic material that burst from another moon, Enceladus, and decided that they are from pockets of water near the surface of that moon. Fascinating discovery. Scientist also discovered (in 2013) that it rains DIAMONDS on Saturn (and Jupiter, too), as the element carbon is present. Evidently when there are lightening storms there, methane is turned into soot which hardens into graphite and finally into diamonds as they fall to the planet. According to the BBC, there are theorized to be about 1000 tons of diamonds created per year on Saturn. Some sources (Nova series, “The Planets: Saturn”, season 46, episode 15) say the size of the diamonds can range from a small speck of dust to the size of a small apartment! This is absolutely amazing to me. On Earth, diamonds form naturally when carbon is buried about one hundred miles below the surface. After being heated to approximately 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and being compacted under pressure of around 725,000 pounds per square inch, it needs to quickly move to the Earth’s surface with magma in order to cool down. What is rare here on Earth is ubiquitous on Saturn.

If you are interested, Saturn is visible in the early morning sky in April, along with Jupiter and Mars, approximately one hour prior to sunrise or just before dawn in the Eastern Sky. You will be able to see Saturn with the naked eye but will need a high powered telescope to see its rings. Today, on April 15, Saturn and our moon will appear close together in the sky from Earth. Normally, Saturn is visible in the evening sky from July to December, which is something to look forward to after our stay at home orders likely will be lifted.

April 15 Saturn and Moon picture courtesy of Space.com (Via Starry Night software)

“Shine bright like a diamond
Shine bright like a diamond

Find light in the beautiful sea, I choose to be happy
You and I, you and I, we’re like diamonds in the sky..
.”

-“Diamonds” by Rhianna

Try something different. Why not get up early tomorrow to see this wonderful sight in the morning. Find “light in the beautiful sea” and “choose to be happy” during this uncertain pandemic. “Shine bright like a diamond” by helping others, checking in on family and friends, and staying positive during this tough time. Attitude is everything, they say.

Life is good; carpe diem, friends…….