Most of us have a lot to be thankful for. It would be nice to hold a Thanksgiving star party, where astronomers could rattle off their own special reasons to be grateful. I’ll go first.
- I’m thankful that at star parties, nobody plays music through the loudspeakers. Problem, of course, is different tastes. I think rap music should never be played when the Milky Way is out, but you may think Saturn looks better accompanied by hip-hop.
- We can be grateful for the way stargazing soothes the soul and quiets the mind. Your neighbor, who keeps his yard lights on, might deserve to serve an indefinite term at a special brightly lit prison. Instead, we invite him over to look through the telescope at the night sky wonders. The heavens induce a peaceful forbearance. (No longer do I roll my eyes when someone says, “You’re an astronomer? What’s your sign?”)
- We can give thanks that the Moon and Sun both appear the same size—true of no other planet—which allows total eclipses to occur in our lifetimes. In just a few tens of millions of years, the slowly spiraling-away Moon, departing at the rate of 1.5 inches a year, will no longer appear large enough to blot out the Sun.
- We can give thanks that astronauts do not make political speeches every time they reach orbit.
- That good telescopes are now affordable.
- And that during the earliest UFO landings, some of the aliens got left behind and multiplied here on Earth, where they came to be enjoyed—as turkeys.
Your turn. Happy Thanksgiving!