Category Archives: explore



Learn more about the discovery of Neptune here.

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


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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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The Other Side of Saturn*

for Kimberly

Pratt's drawing of Saturn, 1896.

Saturn from Earth. One of the best photos by an Earth-based observatory. 16 original color images taken the same night at the Catalina observatory were combined to make this photograph.

I remember how it was in the beginning.

The frightening excitement,
the depravity we’d only read about,
the swelling of dunes we thought
we were too old for,
that we had missed.

The love that buffets,
that hollows our skulls’ sockets
widens the possibility that it(we) may not exist.

So large, windy, vast
like staring at the other side of Saturn
through the eyes of the satellite
as it races to the outer edge
beyond our ears’ grasp.

The thrill is in the discovery.
We cannot live there.

The best view of Saturn from Pioneer 11, August 26, 1979. The Pioneer 11 was the first probe to encounter Saturn.

Saturn from Voyager 2, June 1981.

First image found in
Todd, David. A New Astronomy. New York: American Book Company, 1906. p. 367.

Last three images found in
Kaufmann, WIlliam J. Universe. New York: WH Freeman and Company, 1991. pp. 284, 289, 290.

*This documentary is what stirred me to start this project. Voyager’s visit of Saturn starts at 24:20. The other side of Saturn starts at 30:30.

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Venera 9 Revisited

The Leconfield Aphrodite. Petworth House, Sussex.

But her reality is something beautifully unexpected,
round and regular as the goddess herself
surprised at her bath.

Poem posted in its entirety here.

Image found in
Jenkins, Ian and Geoffrey B. Waywell. Sculptors and Sculpture of Caria and the Dodecanese. British Museum Press, 1997. Fig 154.

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Venera 9

Rudaux, Lucian. Sur les autres mondes. Rudaux's view of a craft entering the atmosphere of Venus.

Was it really so much lost
-a few proteges, some melted precious metals-
for a glimpse at the surface
of her bright & silent inferno?

We’ve staked our claim.

Burned into her insatiable atmosphere,
we can no longer be content
with the old mythologies
from a faint stellar glow.

Can a love poem be without this pain?

Now that we’re here,
swirling and minute as last breath,
love in its large, spinning sphere
makes imagination irrelevant.

But her reality is something beautifully unexpected,
round and regular as the goddess herself
surprised at her bath.

image from
Brashear, Ronald and Daniel Lewis. Star Struck: One Thousand Years of the Art and Science of Astronomy. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001. p 150

More information on Venus and the Soviet Venera mission here.

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