‘Astronomy Picture of the Day’ returns after government narrowly escapes shutdown’s black hole

'Three Galaxies and a Comet' -- "Diffuse starlight and dark nebulae along the southern Milky Way arc over the horizon." From Astronomy Picture of the Day http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap131020.html


by Freya Manfred

What matters most? It’s a foolish question because I’m hanging on,
just like you. No, I’m past hanging on. It’s after midnight and I’m falling
toward four a.m., the best time for ghosts, terror, and lost hopes.

No one says anything of significance to me. I don’t care if the President’s
a two year old, and the Vice President’s four. I don’t care if you’re
cashing in your stocks or building homes for the homeless.

I was a caring person. I would make soup and grow you many flowers.
I would enter your world, my hands open to catch your tears,
my lips on your lips in case we both went deaf and blind.

But I don’t care about your birthday, or Christmas, or lover’s lane,
or even you, not as much as I pretend. Ah, I was about to say,

“I don’t care about the stars” — but I had to stop my pen.
Sometimes, out in the silent black Wisconsin countryside
I glance up and see everything that’s not on earth, glowing, pulsing,
each star so close to the next and yet so far away.

Oh, the stars. In lines and curves, with fainter, more mysterious
designs beyond, and again, beyond. The longer I look, the more I see,
and the more I see, the deeper the universe grows.

I have a long way to go, and I’m starting now —
out in the silent black Wisconsin countryside.

“Stars” by Freya Manfred, from Swimming with a Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle. © Red Dragonfly Press, 2008.


How the government shut-down took my stars away

News about the government shut-down flames on, day-in, day-out. And so it should: Lives are under siege and, though it sounds hyperbolic to say, the advance of civilization as we know it has stumbled to a halt and our government has crumpled to its knees.

I will tell you about my small grief: NASA’s Astronomical Photograph of the Day (apod.nasa.gov/apod/) service has shut down and is defunct. I often look at the site to marvel at the photographs and read about our fellow planets with whom we circle the sun, the fly-by asteroids in our galactic neighborhood, and the stars that populate our night skies (though only occasionally seen here in cloudy Seattle).

In memory of the amazing and truly extraordinary APOD website, and with the hope that it will be resurrected very shortly, I offer this photo of the Pleides (from National Geographic) and this poem (Country Stars by William Meredith).

I ask that the wisdom of the universe, always available to us in one form or another whether mathematical or mysterious, inform the thinking of our elected officials as they forge ahead with all of our lives in the balance.


Click the photo to see a larger version of the Pleides–the seven starry sisters that brighten the night sky with their beauty.

Country Stars

by William Meredith

The nearsighted child has taken off her glasses

and come downstairs to be kissed goodnight.

She blows on a black windowpane until it’s white.

Over the apple trees a great bear passes

but she puts her own construction on the night.

Two cities, a chemical plant, and clotted cars

breathe our distrust of darkness on the air,

clouding the pane between us and the stars.

But have no fear, or only proper fear:

the bright watchers are still there.