Celestial Navigation

September 18, 1994

All summer long I almost never see a clear sky that lasts the whole night through. That's because I live in the fog belt. My natural perversity has drawn me to an interest in astronomy, and I have a small telescope which I set up in the back yard on clear nights. No sooner is it set up than in rolls the fog and I go back indoors and read instead.

But when Fall comes, and late Winter, then I get my fill of clear skies. Looking through a telescope, even a small one, is to travel through time. You see light that left its natal star years, thousands of years, millions of years ago. When you look at the stars, you're really looking into the past.

If you could get a powerful enough telescope, you could watch lives being led millennia since. For you, it would be in the now, but for those who led those lives, they would have ended so long ago that there remains nothing of them whatever, except in this ancient light that streams across our heavens.

Perhaps in the vast future a sky-gazer on another planet far away will watch the light that left us when we were young, and we will live again through our shadows, though our corporeal selves have been dust so long that no memory of us remains but a flickering light that glances through an alien planet's fogless Autumn sky.

Celestial navigation, used by ships at sea and aircraft, is based on the apparent and relative positions of celestial bodies.


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Celestial Navigation

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