Sunday, March 04, 2007

Geometry envy

I saw reports on overseas blogs of an eclipse which happened this evening, and was visible from Europe, Africa and parts of Australia.

I was burning with jealousy for no apparent reason. I'm sure these things happen from time to time, and yet the last time I can recall one specifically was when my class dutifully trooped outdoors with special viewing gear some time in elementary school. And that wasn't even the same sort of eclipse. The eclipse this evening was a lunar eclipse (in case the whole "evening" thing didn't give it away). You can look directly at a lunar eclipse.

It's a strange thing to witness: three celestial bodies going about their orbits and hurtling through space suddenly find themselves in a straight line. The shadow of us blocks the light of the sun from the moon, keeps it from bouncing back to us. It's a strange thing to witness, and our understanding of what takes place only helps to make it more strange and wondrous.

I wish I could have witnessed the eclipse, perhaps, because today I am feeling like I could use something poetic. I wish I could have captured images of this accident of geometry and saved them somewhere close by, for use as inspiration when I am feeling less inspired.

I could take out a picture and remember the beautiful thing that happened in space.

I think of Richard Feynman, the physicist and writer. He said:

"Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars — mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is 'mere'. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination — stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern — of which I am a part... What is the pattern or the meaning or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little more about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?"

7 comments:

Chris said...

Well I missed it too. I was even outside walking home from some friends when it was apparently happening.

I passed a person on a hill with a very nice looking camera on a tripod. Once I walked just behind I turned around and looked up but couldn't see anything. I figured she was just taking a picture of the Trinity Mews tower (I've done the same thing as it's a very spooky shot at night).

I must have been looking either too far up or in the wrong direction. When I got back home that's when my flat mate said "did you see the eclipse?". But by then I'd completely missed it.

The extremely frustrating bit is I had my camera with me. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to wait until Feb 28 2008 before the next one is viewable from Scotland.

Minx said...

It was raining - again, but I felt it!!

~*SilverNeurotic*~ said...

Uh, it was visible here in the U.S. I saw it...it started early though, about 4pm or so EST but I went outside about 7:30 and the moon was gone...just a bit of a "glow"...it was pretty cool.

Sundry said...

Love your blog, Maht. Just finally having time to read online again.

It's gorgeous as well as a good read.

Cailleach said...

I saw it Maht. We dragged the kids out to watch it. They were not amused after a while. We sent them back inside so's not to get on our nerves any more than they had done. Six kids is a lot of nerves to be got on.

Anyway it was good. It looked like an orange pudding with snow-white icing on the top when it was near totality. When it was complete it looked like an orange balloon in the sky that someone had let drift. Really, it did. And it looked closer than it does normally.

So Moon Topples, it toppled last night for a while. And then it came back. :)

The Moon Topples said...

Chris: Sorry you missed it. But it sounds like there weren't any glaring clues that you missed. Oh, wait...

Minx: I guess I felt it too, in my way.

SN: The stuff I read said it wouldn't be visible here in Chicago. Which would have been true, as it was cloudy. From what I read, had it been clear, I could have seen a partial, though, and that would have been nice.

Sundry: Thanks. I like yours, too. Even though it isn't made of chocolate like mine.

Cailleach: Not toppled but blotted, perhaps, but I appreciate the pun. Glad you got to see and enjoy it.

Ms Melancholy said...

I think I felt it too, Mr Moon, but I rather regret saying so on my blog. I have been plagued with bizarre comments all day.