Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 4

Peter Tyson
Spectrum
Founded in 1941
by Charles A. Federer, Jr.
and Helen Spence Federer

Escape to the Stars
Sometimes it can seem that the world is going to hell in a

S&T: SEAN WALKER

handbasket. The other night I watched President Obama's live address
from the Oval Office about the fight against terrorism, and each of the
place-names he mentioned brought to mind its own agonizing memories:
San Bernardino. Fort Hood. Chattanooga. Boston. Paris.
We all need ways to try to make sense of such unthinkable deeds,
which recently have seemed to reach new depths of depravity. In the
wake of each new atrocity, perhaps you talk things over with family and
friends. Read or hear commentary from experts. Take a walk and reflect.
Listen to our president.
But making sense of what appears senseless can seem an impossible
task, and sometimes we just want to get away from it all. Where can we
turn for relief, an escape from the madness, if even for a moment?
One obvious answer, and I hardly need to tell you this, is to look up.
Gaze at the heavens. Take yourself off our planet altogether. If you're in a
light-polluted location, even a meditation on the Moon will do it. Contemplating the universe and our place in it can bring immediate peace of
mind, I find. I feel enormously grateful
to have this refuge.
The night sky offers a perfect counterpoint to acts of terrorism down below
on our world. Here, disorder; there,
order. Here, the unpredictable; there,
the predictable. Here, noise; there,
silence. All manner of violent happenings do take place in space - supernovae, gamma-ray bursts. Yet from our
distant vantage on Earth the heavens
appear purely peaceful.
I also find relief somehow in the thought that all that human brutality transpires in an incredibly thin sheath of breathable air that hugs the
surface of our planet. Go up a short distance, and it's space that goes on
forever. Go down a short distance, and it's solid (or molten) rock all the
way to the center of the Earth. Does anything occurring in that narrow
envelope make any difference to all that surrounds it above and below?
Not a bit. It doesn't matter one iota.
Of course, the escape brought by stargazing and musing on our true
place in the cosmos is temporary. We can't hide our heads in the stars. We
have to face reality, because what happens in our thin sheath does matter.
But it's comforting to think that we can return to the celestial sphere
whenever we want. The consolation we can draw from it is available to
anyone anytime. It's like the love of your parents or children - it will
always be there, ready to calm your fears. ✦

The Essential Guide
to Astronomy
EDITORIAL

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March 2016 sky & telescope

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Sky and Telescope - March 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky and Telescope - March 2016

Contents
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - Cover1
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - Cover2
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 1
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - Contents
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 3
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - A
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - B
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 4
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 5
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 6
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 7
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 8
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 9
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 10
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 11
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 12
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 13
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 14
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Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 16
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 17
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 18
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 19
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Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 28
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Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 30
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Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - 40
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Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - Cover3
Sky and Telescope - March 2016 - Cover4
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