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Lions Roar : May 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2008 83 We arrived at Chabot just as the sky was darkening over the dome-shaped observatory, which houses the largest telescope in the United States open to the public. As we waited in line, Alex and Skye regaled us with Saturn trivia: Its rings are actually made of chunks of ice and rock. It’s almost 800 times the size of the earth, but it’s so light that if you put it in a giant ocean, it would float. Skye chatted with the woman behind us—a fel- low space geek in her mid-thirties—about Jupiter’s 62 moons and about Proxima Centauri, our sun’s nearest star, which is four light-years away. “Do you know how far that is in miles?” the woman asked. Skye frowned thoughtfully. “To calculate that,” he said, “you’d have to multiply 186,000 miles per second, times 60 seconds per minute, times 60 minutes per hour, times 24 hours per day, times 365 days per year, times 4 years. I can’t do it in my head. There are too many zeroes.” When it was our turn, we climbed up a stepladder one at a time to peer through the telescope’s eyepiece. “Mom, you’ve got to see this!” Skye gasped. I peered through the telescope and there, 900 million miles away, was Saturn—bright yellow, ringed, and as shiny as candy. It looked just like the plastic Saturn suspended by string and putty from Skye’s ceiling. Dotted around it were the five shiny specks of its largest moons. Meanwhile, on the deck outside the observatory, more space buffs were gathering. Many of them had brought tele- scopes of their own, in a kind of astronomers’ potluck, and they were training them on different celestial objects. Skye and Alex raced giddily from telescope to telescope, checking out Venus and craters on the moon and shouting out, “I newt you, newt you, newt you!”—another mysterious game that only they understood. “Alex, come see this red giant!” shouted Skye, peering at a distant star named Betelgeuse. A red giant, I know from Skye’s space books, is an ancient, immensely swollen star on its way to blowing up or fading out. Some astronomers predict that Betelgeuse will go supernova in the next thousand years or so, in a massive explosion that will be as bright as the moon in our night sky—a smaller-scale version of the ancient explod- ing star that created every element in our solar system. But As I watched the boys turn cartwheels under the moon, a Zen chant ran through my head: “Within light there is darkness, but do not try to understand that darkness. Within darkness there is light, but do not look for that light.” Hailed as Ko Un’s best collection of Buddhist poems, this gift edition (previously titled Beyond Self ) features a new sympathetic translation that captures the author’s spirit and humor and includes 11 original brush paintings. These true Zen poems are as witty and down-to-earth as they are comtemplative. MAY 80-105.indd 83 MAY 80-105.indd 83 3/6/08 11:36:38 AM 3/6/08 11:36:38 AM