This is a good morning email about a good night.
Over the holidays our family visited an outdoor observatory to gaze at the stars. The facility had multiple high-powered telescopes set up to view various quadrants of the clear night sky. Through the eyepiece, which was gathering light using mirrors and length of tube, we saw things invisible to the naked eye which we’d never seen in that fashion before. A star cluster, a nebula, the planet Jupiter, and the planet Saturn with rings clearly viewable! Part of the conversation centered on the concept of looking at clouds of gas and dust, glimmering spirals of stars, thousands or even millions of light years away.
On one hand, something so vast and incomprehensible can make you feel small and insignificant. On the other hand, or the other (dominant) eye, I believe we all felt a sense of connection and dare I say … awe. While we were bundled up against the night cold, we each mentioned sensations such as chills and goosebumps, along with slacked jaws and of course … wide eyes.
Have you stood at the base of a giant redwood tree? Watched the water flow from Niagara Falls? Or contemplated the view from the rim of the Grand Canyon? If so, I will guess you found yourself invigorated, curious and smiling. Studies have also demonstrated positive relationships between awe and pro-social behaviors such as increased empathy, gratitude, and attention to others.
If you have the chance to escape nearby light pollution and access a powerful telescope, I promise you will enjoy humbly gazing into the night sky.