This blue marble

– and yet it spins

The night sky unveiled

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qtbn2-v2And there it was: another of those unbelievably bright, long-lived shooting stars above the desert. The night skies over Namibia are remarkable. During a night drive between Windhoek city and airport one is bound to see at least two shooting stars. It is not because they are more common here, but because there is barely any light pollution, clouds, or humidity in the sky between us and the universe.

The first time in my life I truly saw (and paid attention to) the Milky Way was in a tiny village on the Kenyan coast. It seemed to me as a string of cloud and stars in the sky. But here in Namibia I have seen the Milky way in an entirely new resolution: as swirls of uneven, nebulous patches of light and dark. Here in Namibia it is possible to view other galaxies with the naked eye.

The sky is so densely speckled that I have to get used to the thought that this is what the night sky, anywhere on the planet, REALLY looks like. My perception of a sky full of stars has lacked about half of what my ancestors saw, before the invention of electricity. In fact, if anybody asked me to imagine a night sky, in my mind’s eye it would look completely different than if my ancestors were asked to do the same thing.

It saddens me to think that one needs to go to Africa or the deepest central Asia to see what the sky really looks like. My generation and further, younger generations, will probably not even know what the sky and space beyond really looks like. What was normal to my ancestors will be lost to them. Just like an extinct animal species.

Photo borrowed from Florian Breuer’s blog. Apologies Florian for the steal but there is no way I would have been able to photograph the amazing Namibian night sky with the iPhone I was carrying.

(Namibia; July 2017)

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