Wonders That Come To Life When The Lights Are Turned off

Wonders That Come To Life When The Lights Are Turned off

Do you enjoy watching the night sky? If your answer is ‘no’, you probably haven’t seen a meteor shower yet. I fell in love with the night sky back when I was in school. For Science, we had this brief unit on constellations and planets. Upon seeing the photographs of stars, planets and meteors, I was immediately fascinated. From that day on, watching the night sky has become one of my favorite hobbies.

Observing the night sky is not that difficult. Of course, having a telescope or a binocular would make it easier, but your naked eye is more than enough to enjoy the marvel of outer space. Millenniums ago, however, people did not have any devices to stargaze. They merely gazed at the dark outer space and the stars with their naked eye. The night sky was a true wonder, one which was beyond their perception. They observed those blinking, divine objects with awe. And that is when the night sky evoked the creativity in humans. Our ancestors connected the stars and shaped stories out of them. Heroes were honored by being awarded a space in the sky! Some individuals in those tales such as Andromeda and Cassiopeia were placed among stars posthumously, while enemies were placed far away from one another so they would not meet again. That is why Orion and Scorpios, the famous foes cannot be seen together at the same time. If they did, there would be a celestial war! Animals such as Taurus and Pegasus were given the freedom to roam all over the sky.

In fact, the night sky was a fountain of fresh thoughts for people, and it still continues to be so. When you look at those stars and tiny grey clouds, you’ll find your mind emptying, with new ideas and old memories soon taking that space. You will find it oddly satisfying to discover you that are thinking about fresh thoughts, and the past you have not recalled in years is now finding its way back into to your mind (Ambient music playing in the background).

But when you see a star that’s not blinking, everything comes to a halt (including the music!). Is that a planet? Stars blink, planets don’t. Then this has got to be a planet!  This is an example of where the night sky arouses your curiosity. Google for a night sky map and find out if that’s really a planet. If it turns out to really be one, you’re one lucky fellow as planets aren’t visible every night!

In fact, astronomy, the study of celestial bodies and the universe is one of the oldest natural sciences. After years of observing and inventing new instruments for stargazing such as the telescope, it was discovered that apart from stars, many more objects including planets and meteors could be seen at night. While stars blink and planets do not, Nebulas and the Milky Way can be mistaken for clouds!

How can one ensure that they will not miss all these wonderful phenomena, you ask? Having a star map would make things much more comfortable and easier for you, because now you will know which constellations and planets would be visible on each night. With a just star map however, is it possible to see things like Nebulas or the Milky Way? It is! From January to March, you will see the famous huntsman – Orion in the Southern sky. Look at his belt, made of three stars. A faded cloud will be there. That is the Orion Nebula, which looks like a bit of mist to the naked eye.

In August for example, you will spot a letter ‘J’ or a shape of an anchor in the south-western sky, named Scorpios. A giant star shining in red will catch your eyes. That is Antares, a red giant which is close to its death. Take your eyes away from the dying star and look to the left of Scorpios. On a clear night, you will see a long cloud sitting diagonally. If it is there, now you have seen the Milky Way, which is in fact a limb of the galaxy that we belong to.

These are just a few things to make you smile while gazing at the starry sky. If you’d like to see more, I’d recommend you to step outside during different seasons. If you do, different constellations, or mythical legends and animals will be waiting for you. Orion comes out in winter (January), Leo roars in spring (April), and Scorpios scuttles in summer (August) and Pegasus flies in autumn (November).

Yet still, what is so great about the night sky? It is out there EVERY night! In fact, while many of us have a clear view of the night sky and all those beautiful stars every night, some others do not. Have you ever wondered how a child in New York would be able watch the night sky with all those bright lights of the city? Try observing the night sky from a brightly lit place. It will be evident that you cannot see half of the stars you should be seeing. Here’s a fact: if you want to see more stars, turn off those lights. They get in the way, and as a result, you will be missing out a lot of things. Even a meteor, maybe!

I’m grateful to live in a place where I can really enjoy watching the night sky. I remember the time when a meteor shower was once expected to happen. Waking up at 3am in the morning, I was excited to catch a glimpse of these falling stars. An hour passed, and there was absolutely nothing other than the normal static stars. But finally, I saw something small and bright, gracefully falling down. Then it became a non-stop process for a while. The dark purple sky lighting up with falling stars among hundreds of thousands of stars. It was such a mesmerizing sight that I lack enough words to describe. It still gives me goosebumps sometimes when I gaze at the endless sky with its bright spots all over and remember that time I was once hypnotized by the night sky.

Here’s an invitation from me to you all, to enjoy the wonders of the starry sky. Grab that flashlight and step outside! A whole new world of discovery and beauty awaits!

– Rtr Heshani Dharmapala

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