Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - 84

JESSIE LIN
FOCAL POINT by Jane Green
Savoring Space and Time
Despite its ravages, the pandemic gave many of us a pair of precious gifts.
LIKE MANY IN THE UNITED KINGDOM,
I was furloughed for six months as a
result of COVID-19. As a judge in the
horseracing industry, I determine race
winners in a high-octane environment
in which errors with split-second decisions
can cost millions. Governed by
deadlines, schedules, and endless thinking
ahead, I frequently disappear up my
own tailpipe! But lockdown changed all
that, and two priceless gifts emerged:
space and time.
Instantly, " empty " days and nights
stretched ahead. Freed from work, I had
space and time to think about . . . space
and time. Untethered from early morning
starts and relentless pressure to be
at the top of my game, my foot eased off
the proverbial pedal. I stayed out late
observing, occasionally all night, for
when would such freedom arise again?
Night after glorious night I gazed
into contrail-free, relatively unpolluted
skies with tack-sharp stars. The Milky
Way seemed more luminous and voluminous,
its rarely visible dust lanes now
clearly threaded through its star-spangled
length. When the Moon emerged,
she was brighter, her mare and craters
wondrously defined. I delighted in the
phase transitions, and in earthshine
that was stunningly incandescent. I
even pulled out my " trusty but dusty "
TAL-1 telescope, cleaned it, and aimed it
skyward to track the travelling planets,
which, as with all else, stood out so
much sharper than pre-pandemic.
There I stood in magnificent isolation
in the field near our house, present
in a way never permitted before, enjoying
all the space and time in the world,
in the universe even, following my own
mantra, which is to " look up, live it,
and love it. " It was magical.
But I couldn't totally disconnect
from the company's " cyber hive, " and
I monitored horseracing matters on
84 JANUARY 2022 * SKY & TELESCOPE
the workplace social media site. Here I
read such comments as: " I'm bored out
of my tiny mind " - " I've got loads of
time and nothing to do with it " - " I
just can't walk the darn dog anymore. "
Reading them, I grew more saddened
by the day. At last you have the space and
time you've long lamented not having, I
inwardly screamed. Look up!
So, taking action, I began posting
photos of the planets. I received instant
feedback and questions: Where are
they? Can I spot them now? How did
they get there? Soon I was overwhelmed.
My equine-absorbed colleagues, many
immersed in homeschooling, fired questions
from their kids, some of whom
were working on science projects but
had no idea about astronomy.
I moved from the Moon, planets, and
constellations to how the stars came to
be, suggesting that my colleagues spare
a thought for how small and transient
their space and time are compared to
the size and age of the cosmos itself!
Families soon confessed to staying out
late to watch the Moon rise or to seek
out the planets. They posted their own
images in a bid to share their awe and
joy. The site became a much-followed
hub for everyone to showcase their newfound
time and space.
I'm now back at work and bemoan
the loss of these two treasured gifts.
Once again, schedules, deadlines, and
constant low-level stress are the order of
the day. But a glance at the night sky is
a reminder for all of us that we should
make the space and time.
ยข JANE GREEN is a Racing Judge for
the British Horseracing Authority in England
but also finds time to write, lecture,
and broadcast on astronomy.

Sky & Telescope - January 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky & Telescope - January 2022

Contents
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - Cover1
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - Cover2
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - 1
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - Contents
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - 3
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Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - Cover3
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - Cover4
Sky & Telescope - January 2022 - SA1
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