Sunday, September 12, 2010

Crescent Moon and Venus

Last night the celestial skies provided a treat ... shortly after the sun set on the western horizon, I went outside to our backyard in St. Paul, Minnesota. A good friend of mine sent me a text from New York, "Look at the crescent moon!!!" I was immersed in watching the US Open on TV and was nudged to take time to go outside. There's something amazing about knowing that I can be looking at the exact same moon from here in St. Paul as a friend in New York or California, or from Bimini, Bahamas or even my mother who is in the Philippines. I've always had a fascination with the moon. Maybe because my last name means moon rays in Thai, my birth country and where I lived the first 16 years of my life. So I went outside as the sun was setting and not only did I witness the most magnificent crescent moon but off to the right I noticed a bright star. It was so bright I knew it had to be a planet, but which planet? I came inside for a moment and went to the Earth Sky astronomy website where I learned that it was Venus. I rushed back outside with my camera to capture the moment. Despite the city lights I was grateful to be able to witness the pairing of the crescent moon and Venus as it rotated around planet earth ... it still amazes me to think of how planets orbits the sun, how moons orbit planets and that our sun is a star born from clouds and dust scattered throughout our universe. Life on earth exists because there is a perfect mixture of elements in our atmosphere and because of our sun. When I look up into the night skies all I can think of is "there has got to be a God!"

When I look up in the night skies and into our universe every structure, every sense of logic and reasoning is shattered for me. We live our life based on time. We wake up at a certain time each day, we have meetings scheduled throughout the day, we plan for vacations and business trips ... everything is time-based. Last night was a clear night and even in the city the night sky was filled with stars. As I'm mesmerized by these stars I realize, it's possible that a star I am looking at could no longer exist. When I look into the skies I am actually looking into the past .... in the heavens any sense of past, present, future is set aside.

From The Little India site:

When we look at the sun, in fact we are seeing the sun as it existed 8 minutes ago - the time light takes (at a speed of 186,000 miles per second) to travel the 93 million miles between sun and earth. Even if the sun disappears in a cosmic event, we will continue to see the non-existing sun for 8 minutes! We perceive the past of the sun as our present sun....

So how far can we see? The puzzling answer is around 13 billion light years. Our best telescopes can see a few million years after the origin of the universe. But we cannot see anything before the point when light emerged out of the baby universe. Asking the question "how far can we see" is actually the same as inquiring, "how far back in time can we see?" The expanding universe imposes a limit on our view and so we will not see anything beyond 13 billion years ago. And when we see it, unfortunately it will not be there any more! In the Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna, "All created beings are unmanifest in their beginning, manifest in their interim state, and unmanifest again when they are annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?"

Looking up into the heavens reminds me of how all I have is the present moment. There is no past, there is no future. It is helping me to not worry about the lump that is growing in my breast. 

If you missed the crescent moon and Venus last night, you have another opportunity tonight ... and tonight there's an added bonus of catching the double star Zubenelgenubi. Check out the Earth Sky site for more info. 

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