suitti (suitti) wrote,

Astronomical Night

Astronomy has these big numbers. Tens of trillions of miles to the nearest star. Now, i can cope with a million. A million seconds is a couple weeks. But a million fortnights isn't part of my intuitive understanding. So we talk about "astronomical distance". So the adjective "astronomical" seems to mean "inconceivably huge". And i've heard it used without numeric meaning, such as "astronomically stupid". It might have been about GW, but that's water under the bridge.

After sundown comes civil twilight, then naval twilight, then astronomical twilight. And when the Sun is 18 degrees below the horizon, it's astronomical night. And you'd expect it to be incomparably dark. And as a metaphor it ought to be something deeply disturbing - like the death of your spouse or your child, or a depressing contemplation of your own mortality. It's alluring. But when you actually go out under clear skies and the Moon hasn't risen, with minimal light pollution in astronomical night, the Milky Way shines brightly, and it's totally gorgeous. And it's not that dark. You don't need a flashlight to find your scope or goof around with the focuser after changing eyepieces. Your eyes have adjusted.
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