Monday, June 29, 2009

nature sublime

The other day, I was presenting a live seasonal star show in the dome. It was a summer afternoon, and a young boy was attending the show with family. He was clutching a jar with some holes poked in the lid, and upon a closer look I saw that he had apparently caught some fireflies the previous night and had them captive in the jar. I began the presentation, letting the Sun set in the west, and fast-forwarded to the midnight hours in order to be able to get the classic Sagittarius/Scorpio/Milky Way southern sky of summer, with the Summer Triangle of Vega, Altair, and Deneb high overhead, and brilliant Jupiter rising in the eastern sky. After just a couple of minutes discussing the prominent points of the summer sky I noticed some faint light but really didn't think anything of it, but within another couple of minutes it had become very obvious that the eight or so fireflies contained in the jar had decided that it was nighttime and they started to blink as furiously as they would be doing if it actually was midnight. I thought I had seen everything possible in a planetarium, and suddenly I was presented with one of the most delightful of surprises. What an extraordinary universe we live in.

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