While taking a walk around sundown the Moon and Venus appeared. I used the new phone my kids got me to take this shot through some elms along the pathway. These two very distinct worlds seem to be following each other toward the west as they trace a line that tracks the ecliptic plane.
Venus is one of the original “wanderers” as seen by ancient peoples. Its presence was marked by the priest-astronomers of the Mayan civilization and other stargazers from around the world. Understanding the mysteries of the planet’s flight across the sky drove further investigations that promoted mathematics and eventually led to physics. It was these understandings that explained everything from the mundane fall of an apple from a tree to the energies that define the fleeting lives of sub-atomic particles.
The Moon is the Earth’s seemingly timeless companion. Its origin seems as enigmatic as the genesis of life on Earth. The Moon’s transit resembles nothing so much as a dependable clockwork symmetry that first informed us of the workings of a greater cosmos. Twelve men have walked there in places with such esoteric names as the Fra Mauro Highlands and the Taurus-Littrow Valley. Against a lonely ink-black sky they explored a magnificent desolation wherein they gathered stones that answered a thousand mysteries. And yet however much we have learned, the Moon’s passage around our world will always drive the familiar tides, force no few of us to look up on a given evening, and is a companion to lovers, poets, and artists.
And there they are, greeting us all tonight. Happy New Year!