Outer space is cool. If planetary formation, black hole mysteries and galactic mingling don’t get you psyched, then Houston, we have a problem. Oh, and aliens. Let’s not forget about aliens. I thrive off space travel culture; there are glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling in my bedroom. Space is my thing.
So, I embrace any chance to go stargazing or collectively geek out about magic in the solar system without sounding like a lunatic. That’s why I treasured last week’s rare lunar eclipse so deeply.
For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, the stars were surely out the night of September 27, during which a total lunar eclipse aligned with a supermoon. Stated super simply, a supermoon is a full or new moon at its closest point to Earth. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth is between the Sun and Moon, casting a shadow over the satellite as it passes by in orbit. All this to say that when both happen simultaneously, a thrilling phenomenon results.
My fellow wannabe space cadets made our way to Laguna Beach; Top of the World, to be precise, which is reputably the ideal location for lying down, looking up and basking in the glory of our vastly expansive and wondrous universe.
We were not alone; the drive up to the Top was winding and crowded. Parking was a pain and navigating the rocky terrain took acute balance and foot placement. Families, friends and lovers all took to the peaks that night, with the dark abyss of the ocean below us and the even darker abyss of the sky above our heads. For one night, the world was looking up together.
The sight was indescribable. Images rather than words can more accurately depict the extraordinary process of watching Earth’s umbra slowly creep its way across the moon, swallow it, then spit it back out just as delicately. It was an optical representation of that strange idea that all day, every day, our planet is in motion. There we were and there we went, crisscrossing so perfectly with our intrepid satellite.
Between oohs and aahs, my friends and I took cute celestial photos, pointed out our favorite star clusters and spoke philosophically about what it all “means.”
What did we conclude? Not a whole lot, to be honest. Maybe that trippy space stuff attracts a lot of bearded hippies and more people owning telescopes than we’d expect.
Or maybe we determined that we are so grateful to be humans, sentient beings with enough complexity of thought and understanding to be able to revel in the glory of shifting moonlight that night. Humans who can figure out what a supermoon is, how lunar eclipses work in the first place — the fact that we know anything beyond our planet and ourselves. Yes, sometimes being humans that pay taxes, go to school, earn a living, contribute positively to society, make something of ourselves and compete with each other feels like insurmountable pressure and stress. Is it all really necessary? Wouldn’t it all be so much easier if we just could live nomadically, where the main priority is to simply survive? In times of despair, I resent the universe for not making me a tree in this life instead.
But these are not healthy pleas. And they’re futile. Yes, humanity is complicated and overwhelming, but it is also the most special opportunity to think and to feel. Look at the moon, check out those flowers, how deep is the ocean, let’s build a fire. I love that I can comprehend each of these statements and appreciate the beauty they provide. One night under the stars taught me that much.