Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Astronomical Week

First, the wonderful lunar eclipse, then the elusive Aurigids. We witnessed both of the early morning events and thoroughly enjoyed them. The lunar eclipse occurred with the Moon quite high in the sky. Most of the eclipses I've seen have occurred with the Moon closer to the horizon, and in clear view of earthly structures, like buildings, utility poles. As everyone has noticed, the Moon appears much larger when it is lower and it is the ability to readily compare the size of the Moon with the size of a house that makes the Moon seem "larger than a house", and that's pretty big. Our mind tricks us into this irrelevant comparison and we fall for it and may even fall in love under it. When the Moon is high, we have nothing to compare it to and it seems much smaller. In truth, the the image of the Moon on our retinas is precisely the same in both cases.

The Aurigids, a rare collision of the Earth's orbit with a particular comet tail, promised a spectacular shower of meteors, or maybe nothing. That's what made it fun. We saw, between the two of us, 10 in about 1/2 hour. Many were persistent, colorful and awesome. Others could have been illusory- maybe a phosphene generated by pressure on the retina. It takes two sensate beings to disentangle illusion from truth. It makes you realize that all we see could be just neurons firing and have no other universal basis. What a silly idea.

So, this week, two wonderful events Both have elements which call into question the absoluteness of what we observe. But I think what I see is 'real' and I love what I see. Don't spoil it for me.

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