Dark Skies

The meteor burned for about two seconds until its streak of light vanished. I reflexively glanced as it had appeared barely within my vision, in the east. The space rock must have been more massive than the average meteor but not big enough to survive as a meteorite.

The sighting reminded me of when one of my uncles claimed to have picked up a meteorite the day after he watched it fall into a corn field near his home. I asked to see it, but my uncle said it had been misplaced over the years. I’ve long wondered if he was telling a tall tale or if he actually owned a meteorite. The uncle died several years ago, so I’ll probably never know for sure.

Sometimes, when I study the night skies, I try to envision constellations. The Big Dipper is the easiest constellation to see, but the Little Dipper is more difficult due to its location near the northern horizon. During the warmer months I can make out Orion’s belt. The formation lies between Rigel and Betelgeuse. (I always used to misspell Betelgeuse as beetlejuice.) The southern sky fascinates me more because the northern sky is what I usually see due to the location of my house and the tall trees lining the riverbank at the south boundary of my property.

I’m glad that I have a fairly good view of the northern sky. At certain times during cloudless conditions, I’m able to view Aurora Borealus. These rare sightings always bring me joy. I’m also reminded of the lethal nature of solar winds that cause aurora phenomenon. The eerie light indicates the interactions of the Earth’s outer atmosphere with our star’s massive power.

Every few years, I drive west to Cherry County located in the north central part of Nebraska at the border with South Dakota. The area is one of the few remaining places in the continental U.S. suitable for serious stargazing. On cloudless, moonless nights there, a person can see approximately 1,500 stars with the naked eye. Such conditions are humbling to the spirit. In our normal daily lives, it’s easy to believe that the Universe revolves around us; but all one has to do is ponder the sky to realize that this is not how the Universe behaves. While contemplating the Cherry County skies, one sees stark evidence the Earth is just a dust mote in the vastness of our galaxy and intergalactic Space.

I sometimes feel “Cosmic Anxiety” when spending extended periods of night sky viewing. This unsettling mental state is fairly common across the human population. I feel a mix of joy and existential oblivion when this happens to me. As is the case with many people, I experience feelings of angst, dread, and powerlessness, that are energized with awe. I do not fear “Cosmic Anxiety”; I actually yearn for it. In my experience, “Cosmic Anxiety” is a form of mental cleansing–a profound, mind-blowing reality check. I get cold chills just writing about it.

The dark skies are a reminder that my beliefs, opinions, and perceptions are perishable. My egotism and normal, residual hubris are flashes of consciousness like disintegrating meteors in the eastern sky.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes contemporary Turkish novelist, playwright, and public thinker, Mehmet Murat Ildan. “When the sky is totally covered by the dark clouds, be strong enough to see the bright stars beyond them!”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Contemplation, Environment, philosophy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dark Skies

  1. Dark skies make a big difference. Many years ago I saw the Pleiades meteor shower just outside Winnemucca, NV. It was spectacular as the sky was so clear and dark. I’d been driving for 42 hours straight, pulled over to watch the meteors, and fell asleep.

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