1633: Galileo Galilei was put on trial
for saying that the Earth revolves around
the Sun. We are not the center.
They knew better than God who seems
to have been the one who planned it.
[ Back in April 1633, Galileo agreed to plead guilty and was sentenced to an unlimited period of house arrest in his home in Florence for this offense. He gradually went blind and stopped looking to the heavens. It took until 1992 for the Catholic Church to formally admit that Galileo’s views on the solar system are correct. ]
The mathematics told him that the star
was beyond the Milky Way, whole galaxies
beyond ours, but a young girl tending sheep
long before him looked into the night sky
and knew there was something unseen beyond.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau – Young Shepherdess Standing (1887)
Astronomer Edwin Hubble announced the discovery of other galaxies beyond the Milky Way in 1924. Before he made his discovery, everyone thought that our Milky Way galaxy was the only galaxy in the universe, and that there wasn’t much outside it besides the Magellanic Clouds, which were thought to be clouds of gas or dust. We know now that the Magellanic Clouds are really dwarf galaxies. He renamed the Andromeda Nebula the “Andromeda galaxy,” and he went on to discover 23 more separate galaxies. Within a few years of Hubble’s discovery, most astronomers came to agree that our galaxy is just one of millions.
Today the farthest is closest to us.
Unseen by naked eyes, undiscoverable by observation.
Known by calculation, prediction and some faith.
Frozen home for a banished sea god.
Neptune, both our years, now, two lifetimes.
Though I was using Neptune’s closest passing of the year today as the starting place for this poem, I was thinking about someone who died recently. I felt a connection between Neptune’s orbit of about 165 years being like two lifetimes, and my lifetime being combined with the one lost. Both of them unseen, but a presence felt, if not by calculation, then by a faith in some prediction that there is something out there beyond this world.
We have circled the Sun once again.
Today we’re as far away as possible.
Apo – away – from Helios, Greek Sun god.
A summer-hot day, an imperfect circular journey.
Aphelion and 3,000,000 miles doesn’t matter much.
The rain has made the day longer
than twenty-four hours. The air is thick.
We walk slower. Clockworks struggle a bit
to advance. Time and space bend me
and this 5/14’s of a rainy sonnet.
I was thinking about an Einstein quote while watching the rain falling. Albert said, “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”
That inspired today’s ronka poem.
An astronomer floating off the Florida Keys
sees a dark heaven illuminated by skyrockets
that seem to be falling upon him.
Launched from Leo that November 12, 1799,
extinguished by the greater fire of daybreak.
The first recorded observance of a meteor shower in North America was by Andrew Ellicott Douglass . He was an American astronomer who was on a ship off the Florida Keys in 1799. He described the Leonids meteor shower, which occurs every November. The shower gets its name from the fact that it seems to originate in the constellation Leo, and it’s the result of debris from a comet known as Tempel-Tuttle. When the comet’s orbit takes it back to that part of the solar system — roughly every 33 years — the Leonids are especially spectacular.