On Saturday, John and I went to a stargazing event at one of the physics buildings downtown. I thought it would be one of those typical free, family-oriented events where no one shows up and you’re stuck watching 8-year-olds draw pictures of planets, and maybe glance through a telescope at the cloudy sky. Don’t call me a pessimist; I just like to set my expectations low sometimes, to avoid disappointment and also to get excited when something turns out to be fun.
Anyway, it was fun. We watched some awkward grad students play an astronomy quiz show. I felt good about myself because I totally got the answer to one of the questions, which was to guess song names (Jeopardy-style) that have to do with planets. My love of 90s music proved useful when I named-that-tune by Train.
We also went out onto the rooftop deck (technically not the rooftop, since I think there were higher floors. The almost-rooftop deck?) and the clouds cleared away. It was freezing, but I got to peek through a big telescope (I always want to say microscope…) and saw the moon. And its craters. And Jupiter, which really just looked like the brightest star in the sky. Through the lens, you could make out a faint ring or two around the planet, and see its 4 moons. I tried to explain this feeling to John and my friends who were there, and still can’t make sense of it, but somehow the images magnified just looked fake to me. Almost as if I were a kid, flipping through the images on those glasses that showed, for instance, photos of jungle animals or Disney scenes. Does anyone remember those? They came before video games. And now I feel old.
Somehow, looking through the lens and seeing that planet, and that moon, up close just wasn’t as good as staring up at the sky, unassisted by instruments.
We also talked to a grad student, or possibly a post-doc, who was in the “sort of final round” of 1,000+ applicants for this colonization of Mars project. Apparently we’re going there in 2025, and a group of 4 geniuses (or at least non-psychopaths, and non-claustrophobics) will kick off the (televised, of course) experience. I’m picturing it like the latest reality show. Instead of the Kardashians and all of those gold-digging (literal and metaphorical) shows, we’ll be watching cat fights and pregnant teen dramas on the moon one day.