This past weekend we celebrated the historic moon walk, and success of Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins. It was one of those moments in time that remain engraved in ones memory, as clear as the day it happened.
I was a 10 year old kid on a family vacation. My brave parents bundled up six kids in a station wagon, attached a pop-up camper and headed westward. Our goal was the same as many Midwest families: Yellowstone. But the timing of this particular vacation overlapped a significant historic event, the moon landing!
Not to worry! My parents had the good sense to plan ahead and find a campground with a working TV.
Being only 10, I wasn’t really sure what was happening, but I could tell it was big. All the campers headed to the building, filling the tiny room. When I realized what I was about to witness I was stunned. My world just got a whole lot bigger.
I stared at the TV so hard I thought I’d get sucked up into it. I remember it all; those historic first words, that little hop they had to do to get to the surface, everything. The whole world watched as Neil Armstrong took that first step. We actually managed to unite the planet, even if only for a few short moments. I will always be grateful to my parents for making sure we witnessed this historic event.
The moon changed forever for me that night. It was no longer just a beautiful addition to our night sky. It had become a place that people had visited. It had become a place that someone had actually reached out and touched. That fact still takes my breath away.
I still am stunned at the beauty of space, what we’ve seen and discovered since then. From planet hunting, visiting asteroids, looking back at Earth from Saturn and roving around Mars, we’ve done some pretty amazing things!
Even though we’re living in a country with a 17 trillion dollar debt, Amy and I still think a hundred of anything is a pretty big number. For example, we were impressed when we learned that Smucker’s, the backless bra, Wrigley Field, and Mother’s Day all reach the century mark this year.
Just think about working a hundred-hour work week. Eeek! Or maybe needing to lose a hundred pounds. Would you like to commute a hundred miles to work everyday, or shovel a driveway that’s a hundred feet long? How about trying to do a hundred sit-ups, carry a hundred bricks into the backyard for the patio, or pay for that hundred gallons of gas you just pumped into your truck? Yep. A hundred is still a pretty big number.
To bring this sudden fascination with 100 down to a personal level, Amy and I are excited because, besides 100 being written by the Roman Numeral “C” (which always stands for chocolate) this is a time of celebration for the Astro Babes because this is our 100th Astro Babe blog!
The first 100 blogs have been challenging but loads of fun, too. We’ve written about a lot of different topics and learned a lot. Hopefully you’ll be with us, dear reader, to see where the next 100 blogs takes us.
One of my favorite observing nights was a journey out to Cedar Drive Observatory, owned by fellow club member Tony Kroes. Lynn and I went out there to see an NEA, or Near Earth Asteroid that was tumbling by at a distance closer to us than the moon. I’ll give you a minute to wrap your brain around that one.
This was something that allegedly we’d be able to see through our binoculars, so ever optimistic, we arrive with a small star chart with the approximate path of the asteroid printed on it. It became clear that we just wouldn’t be able to find this thing ourselves so leave it to Tony to find this moving target.
I’m sure I actually dropped my jaw the first time I saw this piece of space rock roll on through the field of view. This is one of the reasons that I became interested in NASA’s Dawn mission. The Dawn spacecraft’s mission is to visit not one, but two asteroid belt objects, the two largest asteroids, Ceres and Vesta. These two asteroids can, at times, be viewed through binoculars!
What’s cool about these asteroids is that they represent the beginning of our solar system. They hold secrets to how our solar system formed, and why there’s an asteroid belt at all! What’s also cool is that this year they can be seen in the same field of view!
So – here’s your challenge – go to www.heavens-above.com and click on the ‘Asteroid’ link then – you guessed it, find Vesta and Ceres! Make sure you observe them more than one night to see the movement. They’re getting dimmer so your better get out there soon!