As you probably know, three astronomical events took place today, namely a solar eclipse, a so-called “supermoon” and the equinox. If you want to be very specific, however, it must be said that, while March 20 meets the definition of a “supermoon”, namely the full or new Moon being within 90% of its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit, the Moon was at perigee yesterday. Also, to continue on this note, the exact time of the equinox is 10:45 PM GMT, so 15 minutes before midnight CET and actually on March 21 if you move further east, so including for me. And, since today’s solar eclipse was total for some parts of the world, it had to happen at the same time as a “supermoon”, as otherwise the Moon wouldn’t have been able to completely block the Sun, so these two events taking place at the same time is not only in no way unusual, but in fact certain.
If that suddenly made things a bit less exciting, well, science and details often tend to do that, and the fact that they frequently make it difficult to maintain high hopes without doing much to pull one out of the depths of despair is a good part of the reason why so many cling on to other beliefs, even after they have been undeniably proven false. After all, while thankfully far less than it’d have been centuries ago, I’m sure that even now a day like this was used as an excuse for predictions of doom and gloom which some people believed, and that far more are at least somewhat apprehensive about the future despite knowing that there’s no rational basis for such concerns.
That’s not what this post is about, however, and it couldn’t really be, not when I’m also, to a certain extent, guilty of holding on to certain beliefs largely just because they still offer some chance to have a reason to hope when a completely rational approach would leave none. I may say that, at least based on this explanation of the phenomenon, people should probably keep only those unscientific beliefs which give them reason to hope, empower them or at least help them cope, and discard those which limit them or add to their difficulties and concerns, but even that is probably too much for this post.
What I had in mind when I started thinking about writing this was that we should do a better job of showing people how interesting the sky is, in itself. That we, as a species, should look up more, of course not only literally but that’d be a good start, and being more interested in a far bigger picture should also make it easier to then focus on the various big pictures here on Earth. And that there’s so much to know, so much to see and so much happening up there that we don’t need to rely on myths, superstition or sensationalism to catch and hold the attention of most people if only it’d be presented to them in the right way.
We’re on a large ball of rock, with a molten metal core and some liquids and gases sprinkled around the surface, which is spinning on its axis and which has another ball of rock spinning around it, and both of these balls are, along with many, many other celestial bodies of various shapes and sizes, spinning around a huge ball of burning gas, which is only one of hundreds of billions that are part of and spinning through a galaxy, which in turn is part of a local cluster which is part of a universe which is expanding ever faster. And this universe is likely filled with worlds and places and creatures we can’t even imagine, and perhaps also with some we have, merely by accident, happened to imagine. And it may not be the only universe, and it may not be on the only plane of existence, but how can we hope to truly know more about the others if we don’t make enough of an effort to learn about the one we actually are directly part of?
What I’m saying is that, while such events may not mean anything, they can still tell us a lot. And that searching for answers may be frustrating, when they seem to insist on hiding or reveal themselves only in the form of even harder questions, and in some ways it may even be dangerous, when said answers are disappointing or even lead to hopelessness and despair, but that makes it no less rewarding or necessary. And that we may at times need to search for strength and meaning elsewhere, or we may at times need to take a break and simply look at our feet for a while, to stop stumbling around so much and perhaps also to rest our eyes and necks, but that we should never forget about looking up at the sky.
The very fact that we know enough about a few things to make them perhaps appear less interesting should make us even more keen on learning more about the rest. Because what we know is so little in the grand scheme of things and so restricted to things that happen so near and so often on an astronomical scale that it should serve to merely whet our appetite. It should tell us that, despite being so insignificant, we are, eventually, capable of wrapping our minds around things much bigger than ourselves.