SLOAN COLUMN: Seeing stars is on my horizon
This year I plan to spend a little more time looking up at the night sky, gazing at stars, observing the planets and contemplating the cosmos. Several years ago I lived in Hartsville and my then wife and I owned a beautiful home that was situated on a dirt road. We owned about six acres, only one of which served as our yard. The other five were farmland that surrounded us on three sides. We sublet the fields to a local farmer who rotated his crops each year. One year it would be soy bean and a sea of green. The next year the landscape was covered with rows and rows of corn stalks. Country living at its finest. I loved the nights living out in the country. There were no glaring light posts, so when the sun went down on a night when the moon was barely visible, it would be pitch black. On cloudless nights, a galaxy of stars would put on a spectacular light show. There they were, thousands of God’s little lanterns twinkling on and off in the heavens. We would point out the constellations and connect the stars with our fingers. Man, it was beautiful. And quiet. There was little or no traffic, so the peacefulness, serenity, and solitude were nothing short of blissful. The only thing that would break the silence was a chorus of crickets or the croaking of a nearby frog or two. The wife and I referred to the place as our little slice of heaven. Every so often I would make my way to the backyard in the wee hours, either late at night or early in the morning depending on how you look at it. If there was a full moon, that big ol’ spotlight would make it seem almost like daylight. I would lay flat on my back in the middle of our trampoline and just look up at the sky. It made you feel mighty small, thinking about just how big the universe really is. It also gave you a greater appreciation for our creator. God is pretty dog gone impressive when you pause and admire his handiwork. I no longer live in the country and I no longer own a trampoline, so this year’s star gazing won’t be quite the same as it was. I’ll have to settle for the back porch or find a secluded spot nearby. The church parking lot across the street might just work. One thing I can promise you, though. The star-studded show will be as breathtaking as ever. This year’s astronomical lineup includes two total lunar eclipses, a trio of meteor showers, and super moons highlight the list of celestial events for sky gazers in 2022. The lunar eclipses will happen in May and November. The first will be seen in the eastern sky on the night of May 15. The second will happen in the wee hours of Nov. 8. NASA experts have also identified at least two super moons - when a full moon is relatively close to the earth so it appears slightly larger than normal. One will occur June 14 when the moon is just under 222,400 miles from Earth, its second-closest approach this year. The second will occur July 13 when it is only 222,000 miles away, its closest approach of the year. To give these variations some context, the farthest distance between Earth and moon this year will be more than 252,600 miles on June 29. A Lyrids meteor shower is expected April 22-23. The meteor society says the Lyrids typically lack persistent trains but can produce fireballs. A Perseids meteor shower will take place July 14 through Aug. 24. The Perseids are usually one of the year’s most eagerly anticipated showers because they occur in the summer when the weather is conducive to hanging out under the stars at night. This might be a disappointing year for them, though, because the moon will be full at peak (Aug. 12-13) and that could impair viewing. Finally, a Geminids meteor shower will light up the December sky through the month. The Geminids are usually the strongest shower of the year, peaking Dec. 13-14, with up to 120 per hour. And there you have it. Join me in admiring beauty of our amazing universe. Until most of us have Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson or Elon Musk kind of money, we’ll have to settle for watching the show from the cheap seats. And even from there, it’s still pretty grand. Contact Editor Bob Sloan at editor@florence newsjournal.com.