I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and comments lately about the Chinese probe and rover landing on the moon. Much of the rhetoric is extremely supportive, congratulating China for a tremendous achievement. We should all recognize it for what it is – not just an accomplishment for the Chinese, but an accomplishment by us all.
I watched Apollo 11 lift off the pad back in 1969. At the time, it actually occurred to me that there should be a flag symbolizing humankind next to the U.S. flag on the side of that Saturn 5 rocket. I wanted to see a symbol that said, “Hey! This rocket isn’t just from the United States – it’s from the whole human race!”
I’ve thought about this often over the years and decided that it would take more than a few email suggestions from me to make that Human Race Flag happen.
Who’s going to design and approve the Human Race Flag? And after all this time, who would be the first to put this emblem on their rocket? Would the Chinese fly the Human Race Flag if it was designed in the United States? Or would we use their design? No.
I’m thinking it’s going to take a threat to our collective race, like an impacting meteorite or an invasion from outer space, to get us to drop our borders and work together. Just like in the movie Independence Day. Until then, I guess we’ll have to wait until we collectively join the United Federation of Planets and dispense with our homegrown flags all together.
Early in December I decided to try to find Comet Lovejoy. While all eyes were on ISON, I felt sorry for Lovejoy. Here it was, high in the sky still putting on a show and no one seemed to be paying attention! I checked first to see if Lovejoy was going to be visible at a reasonable hour. This is an important criteria for me. I struggle with the whole ‘should I sleep or should I get out of bed and go observing’ thing. I really hate being cold, so usually sleep wins out! Good news! I should be able to see it around 5am.
Before I went to bed I checked the star charts again in an attempt to burn into my memory the exact position of the comet. This almost never works by the way. I checked my 10×50 binoculars and made sure I had warm clothes. It’s December in Wisconsin and I really hate being cold.
What I was really hoping for was to be able to see Lovejoy through my patio doors, avoiding the whole subzero thing. I told you I hate the cold. Sadly, that was not to be. Lovejoy was going to be too far north and in the tree of my backyard. Oh – but wait – I could stand in my driveway and see Lovejoy over my house! Well that was better than not seeing it at all, so I was happy.
The next morning I rolled out of bed at 4:30. I threw on some warm clothes, grabbed my jacket and binoculars and went out front. I was pretty sure I knew where to look but once again my memory failed me. I told you that never works. Back into the house to check my star charts. After scrutinizing a star chart I went back out and sure enough, there she was! A faint fuzz ball. The moon was a bit bright, so I was unable to discern any tail, but I could see the star like center of the comet. It was truly amazing!
The best part was that I was able to get up, find Lovejoy and make it back to bed before my hubby left the house. Who says you can’t do astronomy in your jammies?