Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Quiet Angst of APOD

For five or six years my home page has been APOD, NASA's "Astronomy Picture of the Day." Although some of these are images such as unusual shots of the moon as seen from earth or the earth as photographed from inside the bay of the space shuttle, the great majority of them are intensely beautiful photographs of deep space taken by the Hubble Telescope (with a brief explanation by a professional astronomer). The image above is a random example (NGC 1569: Starburst in a Dwarf Irregular Galaxy ).

I am almost always awed beyond my ability to express the awe, and more and more I find that the pictures also produce in me a sense of unfulfilled, sorrowful desire -- the knowledge that the place or object photographed actually exists, but I will never get any closer to it than staring into a 13-inch screen on my laptop.

And if I could go? I think I'd feel like the Jodi Foster character in "Contact," who presses her face against the glass as she soars among the galaxies and whispers, sobs, "They should have sent a poet."

Here's a poet (Mary McCaslin):

The astronomer has even gone to bed;
The stars and distances grow dim inside his head.
And, just like me, he doesn't care too much....
He's tired of looking at those stars he cannot touch.

("Goodnight Everybody")


 

1 comment:

School's Name said...

There's something about getting older, I think, that leaves us with an inability to fully express ourselves. There are times when simpler phrases would better encompass an experience or emotion, but because we have so many options we are left mired in words and unable to say what we want. So while a poet might be able to find the words we are all thinking, I have to admit the first person I thought of when I read this was a child. Interesting, no?