Learn more about the discovery of Neptune here.

It’s been a long hiatus! Time to get back to work.

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Seasonal Thoughts


This has nothing to do with space, but something to do with resurrection.

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Talking to You

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Ode to the Moon of the Sea


But when
I reach
the sea,
you seem
a different moon,
and cool
in the dew,
as a pearl
as a siren’s

of the sea,
each night
you wash yourself
and wake
by eternal dawn,
wed ceaselessly
with sky, with air,
with sea wind,
by the rhythmic
contractions of the tide,
clean as
in ocean

Excerpt from “Ode to the Moon of the Sea” by Pablo Neruda found in:
Neruda, Pablo. Selected Odes of Pablo Neruda. Trans. Margaret Sayers Peden. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

Photo from the Chicago Astronomer Full Moon Rise Party at the Adler Planetarium. 08/01/2012.

This summer has been overflowing with astronomical inspiration!  From the Transit of Venus to the landing of the Curiosity Rover (and a few moon and star parties thrown in for good measure!), I have experienced more celestial wonders than I would have thought possible in such a large city.  While I am not looking forward to the cold months ahead, the extra darkness and clear skies of winter will hopefully facilitate even more encounters with the empyrean kind.

In addition to all of the exciting space events of the present, this summer was also a commemoration of the men and women who helped pioneer space exploration off the ground.  The world also said goodbye to both the first American woman in space, Sally Ride, and the first man to set foot on the Moon, Neil Armstrong.  One of the most successful space missions of all time, the Voyager spacecraft, celebrated its 35th anniversary as the still operational explorers prepared to leave our solar system.  

In the last week of summer, I return to this tiny corner of the web with a full heart and expectant mind.  

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Moon as photographed from space by the Apollo 11 astronauts.

you have been the apple of our eye
oh near and naked neighbor

we have taken your dappled visage
as testament to the fluke heartbreaks
of gravity and fate

we have mapped each dusty poc,
for each crater is a passionate concession
of two rocks meeting

we’ve echoed your concave ripples
with our own silent rings of battle-

darkening eyes
circling fingers
stretching bellies-

for all generations we have watched you
dress and undress shining scars

and we see no evidence of love,
only the collision of two bodies.

Swann's Odette (detail from The Trials of Moses, Sandro Botticelli, 1481-1482)

First image found in
Mitton, Jacqueline. Cambridge Illustrated Dictionary of Astronomy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. p. 233.

Second image found in
Karpeles, Eric. Paintings in Proust. London: Thames & Hudson, 2008. p. 50.

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For the Conjunction of Two Planets

Jupiter and Venus Conjunction. Image credit Kevin Jung.

We smile at astrological hopes
And leave the sky to expert men
Who do not reckon horoscopes
But painfully extend their ken
In mathematical debate
With slide and photographic plate.

And yet, protest it if we will,
Some corner of the mind retains
The medieval man, who still
Keeps watch upon those starry skeins
And drives us out of doors at night
To gaze at anagrams of light.

Whatever register or law
Is drawn in digits for these two,
Venus and Jupiter keep their awe,
Wardens of brilliance, as they do
Their dual circuit of the west-
The brightest planet and her guest.

Is any light so proudly thrust
From darkness on our lifted faces
A sign of something we can trust,
Or is it that in starry places
We see things we long to see
In fiery iconography?

Rich, Adrienne. Collected Early Poems, 1950-1970. New York: Norton, 1993. p. 54.

Photo found on this great site.


The conjunction of Jupiter and Venus was the brightest it has been in the Chicago sky for years.  The viewing of such a beautiful astronomical event in my adopted metropolis was an almost sacred experience for me, transporting me from my urban prison to the wild, rolling hills locked deep in my memory.

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