Under a night sky

Stars 3


Despite knowing embarrassingly little about it, I’m so fascinated by the universe.

Stars. Planets. Black holes. Meteors. Gravity.

How much do I regret not paying any attention in my science classes growing up? At some point in my academic career, I determined I didn’t have any aptitude in them. That they weren’t my thing. I wasn’t a math girl, a physics girl; I was a writer. I read books.

I should have known I didn’t have to choose, but I was lazy. I didn’t try.

But, you know. It’s too late for regrets. And the good thing? Though I’m seven years out of college and far longer from high school (!), the quest for learning continues. In the bold digital age, I can learn anything I want with enough time and patience.

It’s pretty awesome, actually.

Spence joined a local astronomy club a few years back, and I’ve gone with him twice to hang out in the observatory and check out the moons and rings of Jupiter in their humongous telescope. Unfortunately, both times have been freezing cold — and I’m a total weakling. After a few hours in the chilly air with hands that have gone numb, I’m out.

But before I reached that point on Saturday, I was able to play around with some long-exposure photography of the night sky. Nothing I saw really comes across well in an image, unfortunately; I’d need some serious skills and probably superior equipment for that.

But what I can try to express? What it feels like to stand beneath an open expanse of sky, where the stars burn brighter than I’ve ever seen them. I stand in the cold, exhale; I think, I am here. I think again of the pale blue dot, of being one human being at a specific point in time in a vast, unpredictable universe.

Sometimes it makes me sad, and other times . . . well, it makes me want to do something. Be something.

I like the latter better.


Stars 2


Being married to a scientist is a challenge — in a good way — and I revel in the opportunities Spence has to share his knowledge with me. For a while, that intimidated me; my husband just has such a different skill set, you know? Where I excel in the arts and humanities, focusing on language and history and philosophy, he is so grounded in the practical world.

But still, we work. Mostly because we both love to learn, I think, and we’re always learning from each other. I talk to him about famous authors, The Great Gatsby, the outcomes of wars, the culture of far-flung nations. He tells me about gravity and Tesla coils and currents.

And what Spencer can’t tell me, I look up on Wikipedia.

It works.


Stars 1


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37 Comments

Filed under musings, photography

37 responses to “Under a night sky

  1. I am your opposite, an engineer who likes writing and reading… and now I try to balance my job with my passion :D

  2. Beautiful pictures! The guy I’m somewhat dating is my opposite too. I’m more literary and he’s more techno geek, but we connect with music and it’s fun. Sometimes we help each other come up with solutions at our different jobs because our way of looking at things is so very different. It’s that whole fresh eye, versus being in the forest and not able to see the trees thing.

  3. sandynawrot

    No science going on in my head either, although I also find it all fascinating. If you can boil it all down in layman’s terms, I’ll listen (although I don’t remember a darned thing from high school). My hubby and I are both numbers people, which is kinda fun. We totally “get” what each other is doing. But the man doesn’t READ!!! The horror!

    • Meg

      “Layman’s terms” — that’s key for me, too. I often try to read science-based articles and find my eyes rolling back in my head. I need something written for a first-grader so I can go from there!

  4. Lisa

    Loved this post!

  5. Ah it’s beautiful being with your opposite. Sometimes frustrating because of these very differences, but often very beautiful because of them. I can relate to everything you say here. There’s people who prefer the poetry of nature and others who prefer to record its measurements. Although it’s also really good to find the poetry in the science, as it’s there for sure!

    • Meg

      Excellent point about the poetry in science . . . we’re all more alike than we may think!

      • There is poetry and music in everything! I recently watched a documentary entitled ‘Bjork meets David Attenborough’, if you are familiar with their work both are real legends of their fields. It is all about how nature mimics music – if you can get your hands on it I highly recommend it. :)

  6. Gorgeous photos. I too am mesmerized by the night sky and the possibilities. My DH routinely emails questions to NASA and JPL – he’s the thinker, I’m the ‘artist’, in our little family so I totally related to being one with your opposite.

    • Meg

      If I started emailing questions to NASA, they would want to block my address, haha. :) Happy to know you can relate, and thanks for the kind words!

  7. One of my absolute favourite things to do is to stand outside on a clear night and just look up at the sky for ages. For some reason it always makes me feel incredibly happy…! (and also quite tiny)

    • Meg

      I love it, too — especially when you’re away from city lights and can truly take it all in. I want to visit a truly dark spot — like the mountains of West Virginia, or Montana — to get a glimpse of what I’ve been missing. Amazing!

  8. These pictures are gorgeous Meg! I love taking long exposure pictures at night. But sometimes I worry I’ll look at them and see a UFO. Haha!

    • Meg

      Thanks, Natalie! I’m just getting into long exposures, but it’s definitely fun. Considering I had the time and inclination before my hands froze, I just kept adjusting the settings in manual until I got what I wanted. It was supremely satisfying, actually!

  9. If you ever get the chance, you should read “Literature and Science” by Aldous Huxley. It brings the two together, noting their dependence on each other. Though the science world has progressed since the publishing of that essay, it will expand your mind and help you appreciate both, for we cannot live in this world without either, no matter how much one may try to avoid it.

    • Meg

      Thank you for the recommendation — I’ll definitely have to check that out! Sounds like something my husband might enjoy, too.

  10. Pretty pictures Meg! They make me want to go camping. :)

    • Meg

      Thanks, Stephanie! Though I’ve never fancied myself someone who would enjoy camping, the opportunities for hanging out in nature and checking out the sky are intriguing . . .

  11. I’m in the same boat as you with the intrigue but lack of universe knowledge. I took an Astronomy class in college but all our field trips ended up cancelled due to weather (I guess I chose the wrong semester). I’m jealous you have an opportunity to be part of a group experience…even if it is a freezing one.

    • Meg

      See if there’s an astronomy club near you, Jess! Though the folks we hang out with are all far beyond me in terms of knowledge, it’s interesting just to hear what they have to say and check out the constellations they can find so easily. I think I need a pocket guide to the night sky . . . or perhaps an app. Well, nah — I’ll go for the book. :)

  12. I heart the stars too and wish I had learned more science and history for that matter. GREAT pictures. You should give us tips on night photography.

    • Meg

      Thanks, Juju! Perhaps I’ll rig up some kind of night sky post for the future. I’m just getting my feet wet, but Spence is very into long exposures — I’ll have to tap him for advice!

  13. Sounds like me and my husband! I’m into reading and writing, whereas he’s the math and science geek (although I have turned him into a huge reader!).

    Love your photos!

  14. I totally get it. I’m also fascinated by the sky and was so excited to begin working at a place where that is their main topic of conversation – Space! The final frontier! I am consistently surrounded by absolutel genius level minds so I can’t participate in the conversations around because it’s like hearing a totally different language! The language of science, space, and physics. It’s ok though – I enjoy looking at all the photos and using my imagination of being up there.

    • Meg

      That would definitely inspire and overwhelm me, but I’m used to chillin’ with some great scientific minds, haha. Until recently, my idea of space knowledge was watching the latest “Star Trek” movies and getting lost in Chris Pine’s baby blues, so I have a long way to go. I’ll get there eventually . . . live long and prosper!

  15. I may be a scientist but I know nothing about astronomy either! But the universe does intrigue me…it’s just so amazing to me how little we really know about it!

    • Meg

      So true, Joanne. I start doing some very surface-level research and find myself completely overwhelmed — there’s just so much to know! And so much we don’t know. But we’ve come a long way!

  16. First of all, Meg, your photos are gorgeous! Secondly, did you know the National Air and Space Museum holds the occasional Saturday lecture all about space? YBW and I love to go, sometimes they’re good, sometimes not so much…but we love learning and then talking about what we saw. The lectures are free but you have to sign up for them. We always go out to dinner afterwards, sometimes a little dive in Chinatown…sometimes someplace a bit nicer…might be a good date for y’all.
    I thought I read you’re in MD? We come from NOVA.

  17. My feelings, exactly! I adored this post!