As I stated in my previous post, astrophotography has been added to my photographic pursuits largely influenced by my next door neighbor, Rock, in North Carolina. I thus have rationalized including night sky images into my American Roots theme. For much of America's history the frontier was viewed as unlimited and the vast western sky was a metaphor for the promise America held. As a child of the mid-20th century, my identity is very much rooted in the seemingly boundless possibilities that America held. And my youth and youthful science aspirations were completely intertwined with the space program. As we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, I realized that for my granddaughters the moon landing was as distant in time as events of the late 19th century are for me. In this image taken last year at Rock's home in Highlands County, Va, the Milky Way is revealed in a way that only a truly dark sky yields. Growing up in rural Mississippi, the Milky Way was easily seen at night. Unfortunately today due to light pollution truly dark sky areas are few. The bright object above the tall tree is Mars some 36 million miles from Earth last year. That was the closest (and thus the brightest) it has been since 2003, two years before my granddaughters were born. I will be lucky to still be living the next time it is this close, 15-17 years from now. As we all know these time scales and distances are minuscule when compared to the Milky Way and the stars and galaxies beyond in deep space. Within those stars is the beginning of all the elements and the ultimate "roots" of us all. Somewhere in time and place the stardust was formed that is now within us. I am not sure what inspirational events of their youth my granddaughters will reminisce about 50 years hence. Despite all the technical achievements of the last several years,
I worry that my generation has failed to aspire to the greatness that the space program represented. But inspiration does exist in the dark sky at night if we only shut-up for awhile, turn off the lights, and gaze up at the sky.