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Finding Solace In Distant Miracles

January 05, 2018
It's past time to say goodbye to 2017. But now that we bid farewell, we do have to congratulate ourselves on having the good sense to take time out on an August afternoon to gaze up as the moon swallowed the sun for a total solar eclipse.

An estimated 215 million American adults viewed the eclipse. Locally, there were fun viewing events from Grant's Farm to Webster University, from our local libraries to Mike Duffy's Pub and Grill. What a day to remember totally!

Let's face it, 2017 was not the most uplifting year with hurricanes, wildfires, harassment scandals, terrorism, mass shootings and political strife. But for one brief darkened moment we were all together marveling at a distant miracle.

I am still grateful to so many folks for keeping us in the loop about the science and the solar celebrations. They include members of the St. Louis Astronomical Society, the Solar Eclipse Task Force, St. Louis Science Center and more.

Thanks a lot to outdoors enthusiast Bill Ruppert, who brought us a bottle of Solar Eclipse Black Cherry Soda from Straub's Markets. The soda is best used by Jan. 17, 2018. However, I am holding onto that bottle as a keepsake, at least until April 8, 2024, when the next solar eclipse finds a path through Missouri.

There are plenty of reasons to keep looking to the stars before we get to 2024. National Geographic lists such celestial events as a "super blue moon eclipse" on Jan. 31, a "parade of planets" in March, and unusual meteor showers and comet encounters this coming fall.

This month's Wired Magazine gives us another reason to look to the heavens in 2018 in an article entitled, "The Single Best Thing We Did." The story is about the 462-ton, $100 billion International Space Station (ISS) that continues to circle our Earth 250 miles up in space.

I must admit the article made me feel a bit of shame for not paying more heed to the heroes that we humans have in space. They are American and Russian, two very unlikely partners in the most incredible project ever assembled.

I was moved to tears when I read about the 2003 explosion of the shuttle, Columbia. The loss of this craft and the grounding of the shuttles meant the ISS crew would not be returning to Earth as planned. Their stays might be extended by several months, maybe even a year.

Ken Bowersox, one of the "stranded" astronauts, had a 5-year-old son who was understandably worried about his dad. He looked to a winter sky to see his dad and the ISS moving above him so high, and so far. He didn't quite understand the nature of orbital velocity, and he would sprint down the street, chasing his dad, trying to keep him in sight.

Yes, the space station still crosses our night sky, and in these distressing times, it might do us good to know that we are capable of distant miracles. Perhaps the Astronomical Society can give us advice on how to best view this harbinger of hope circling the habitat of humankind.

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