Thursday, March 25, 2010
Keep Looking Up
Jack Horkheimer is awesome. I use to watch his 5-minute TV spots as the "Star Hustler" on PBS when I lived in Miami in the early 90's, then forgot all about him--for years. But when I was home at mom's last Christmas, and the channel was turned to PBS, there he was! I was kicking myself for having missed out on him all these years. I guess you can tell he's a lot older. On this spot he just sits on Saturn's ring most of the time. But back in the day, the special effects sent him zipping all over the cosmos.
Now of course, Jack has a website and a web presence. For that reason, he went from being the Star Hustler to the "Star Gazer." When kids tried to find his site online, putting "Hustler" in the search had unfortunate results.
When the girls and I were out in Ness last weekend, we went out to the tennis court after dark and played tennis. Actually it was more like sticker ball. Whenever we'd hit the ball off the court and into the grass, the ball would get stickers on it, and we'd have to pull them off before re-serving it.
When we were through playing, the girls ran over to the little merry-go-round while I picked up the rackets. They sat on it as it spun, and then lay down. And then they called out to me to come see what they saw. If you lie down on a spinning merry-go-round on a playground under a big sky on a clear night in a rural area, it's like being in a planetarium, only better, since it's real. What you do is stare up at the sky, but instead of looking directly at a star or the moon, you cast your gaze just beyond it, at the darkness, and this has the effect of making all the stars and the moon look like they are circling the sky fast in big wobbly loops. It's a really cool optical illusion.
The girls pointed out Mars to me, and indeed, I could see it's fine pinprick of red light. Tonight is your last chance to see Mars so well until 2012, because it will be traveling out of range until then. But tonight it will be a bright star next to the moon.