Mars-gazing

If you’ve been paying attention to your Facebook feed recently, you probably know Mars is in opposition right now, meaning Earth is directly between the Red Planet and the sun. Additionally, it’s very close to Earth right now. In fact, next Tuesday it’ll be the closest it’s been since 2005.

All that means Mars is really bright in the night sky. As long as there isn’t a lot of cloud cover, you can look up and see it with the naked eye.

So Sunday night, on a pop cultural whim, I went out into the cool, spring air and looked up.

Sure enough, there it was — a big, red dot in the darkness to the right of the moon. I had to stare at for a few seconds to make sure it wasn’t a plane. We live close to the airport, and little, red, blinking lights move over our house all the time.

But no, this one was staying put. It was definitely Mars.

I was suddenly overcome with a sense of wonder. I’ve seen planets before. I’ve spotted Venus based on news reports of where to look in relation to the moon. And when I was in college, I got to look at Jupiter through the telescope during astronomy class.

But the thing with Mars is that it’s so obviously another planet. You look up and everything is white dots on a black field. Except for Mars. Mars is red. It’s different. And I could see it without looking through a telescope like when I observed Jupiter.

I’ve never been much of a stargazer. I like seeing rare astronomical events, but I don’t go out just to look up and see what there is.

But I felt compelled to look at Mars, because how often do you get to see something like that?

And that was what struck me. I stopped my life long enough to look at something cool. It was chilly and I was underdressed, but I went outside anyway. Because I wanted to say I’d done it. Because I wanted to see it.

Because my life was pretty chaotic that day (and has been for awhile), and I just wanted to take a moment to observe how really amazing the universe is.

So if you haven’t done so yet, go out tonight and have a look at Mars. It’s off to the right of the moon. It’s kind of cool.

Give yourself a moment to appreciate the wonder of a strange and beautiful universe. You’ll be glad you did.

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