PUBLISHER’S COLUMN: MONDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
It was around 8:15 on Monday night when Oliver announced that Jupiter was as close to the Earth as it has been in almost 60 years and that he was going to step out onto our front porch and have a look. It was a matter of seconds before he hurried back into the house and said he saw something strange — like “a bunch of shooting stars or something.”
Stacey and I both sprung up and headed out for a look and were instantly taken with what we saw. There, straight above our home on College Street, was a narrow streak of light quickly moving across the night sky from the southwest to the northeast, like Santa Claus on a tracker app on Christmas Eve.
What is that?
I quickly grabbed my phone and took a few photos, and then shot a little video (the results of which are marginal at best) before the light was gone. Baffled, we went back inside and quickly discovered that NASA had, earlier that evening, executed a mission called DART — the world’s first attempt to disrupt the movement of an asteroid in space. The successful impact, which demonstrates NASA’s defense capabilities should an asteroid or comet threaten to make impact on Earth, had happened a 6:14 p.m. CST Monday night, almost exactly two hours before Oliver went outside to look at Jupiter.
What we saw had to have been the result of DART. And what are the chances that we would step foot outside at the exact time that the unusual cosmic encounter was happening directly above our home? It’s something none of us will ever forget, that’s for sure.
I have always been interested in space. I’m certain I made a Solar System out of Styrofoam balls and wire for a science experiment when I was a kid and have always been fascinated with the race to the moon. That has only increased in recent months with a viewing of the most excellent Apple TV series, “For All Mankind” — historical fiction based on the premise that the Soviets beat the United States to the moon in 1969 — and the real-life reinterest in returning a man to the moon and beyond.
Then, just recently, Freeman sophomore Bella Brewer has been in contact with me about her own interest in NASA, and an invitation she is extending to others to take part in NASA’s Future Engineers TechRise challenge. An explanation from Bella is included as a letter to the editor on page 9A of this week’s Courier.
Meanwhile, I don’t know that I’ll ever look at the sky the same way again since our chance viewing on Monday night. I can’t say for certain that what we saw was the result of DART, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Santa Claus. And who knows what kind of impact that will have on Oliver, who did, by the way, get his look at Jupiter on the eastern horizon.
Maybe one day he’ll be a NASA engineer, or at least enjoy a television series about what that means. Either way, Monday night was one for the books and has me shaking my head at the wonder of humankind.