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Standing in Thin Air April 12, 2009

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, poetry, writing.
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I seem to be hearing a lot of stories about what it’s like to be at a mountain top observatory this year. Some of the stories are about the view, both during the day when the only thing you can see is the neighboring mountain tops, and at night, when you can see things no longer visible from home due to light pollution.  There are also some unusual atmospheric optics, like the green flash or rare astronomical effects like the gegenschein.  Some of the stories are about what happens when really smart people become oxygen deprived, like unplugging the computer instead of the desk lamp, or the inability to do simple math. So here is a poem for mountain top observers.

Standing in Thin Air

The air is thin here
In daylight,
         the clouds stretch away below the observatory
         like an ocean from a desert island
Now lost in darkness
         They stretch unseen over distant towns like a blanket,
         covering a child reading by flashlight
         when he should be asleep.
Shadows are cast by the Milky Way
        That band of stars you cannot see from home
If you close your eyes
        They will brush your cheek
         Like the silken thread
        Spun down from autumn trees
        By spiders searching for a warmer place
When you open your eyes
       They spin about
       As if the Earth has become a top
       And you are clinging to the axis
You gulp thin air
       And resume your argument
       Over the result
Of 24 divided by 2
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