So it’s been a bit quiet on the whole telescope thing. Night after night of unadulterated cloud cover, punctuated by two of the darkest clearest nights I have ever witnessed from the Midlands. If only I had completed my MkII Teleportation device I would have beamed myself to the top of the highest hill, in the darkest county, but even from our position in the centre of the country, where normally the doctors carry out complicated surgery just using light pollution, we could clearly discern the Milky way, and a hundred other stars usually invisible.
(Please do not ask about the MKI Teleporter. Although initially encouraging results were obtained, the accident involving the old lady and her pussycat, when they got accidentally merged (she thought she was entering a phone box) still hasn’t been forgotten round here. After all, six-legged furry geriatrics with pointy ears prowling the streets are still a rarity. I still think that if we could have found a large enough litter box then we could have let her live in the neighbourhood, but you KNOW what councils are like, SO MUCH red tape……ah well, you live and learn eh?)
Anyroad, it has been so quiet I have decided to learn to drive a lorry. It has been over 20 years since I first passed my driving test, and I have found the whole HGV experience a little bit like going back to school, (only without the spankings over Matron’s knee, which is a pity). Part of the newer type of test now include a module called “Hazard Perception”, which entails watching clips of driving, filmed from a driver’s point of view, and clicking your mouse when you see a potential hazard. So if you see a child on a bike starting to veer into the road, you click, if you see a car reversing into the flow of traffic, you click. Basically, anything you consider to be dangerous, when you see it coming, you click.
I have since found out that clicking just because you see a female driver in an oncoming car doesn’t gain you any points. I can’t think why.
At any rate, all this hazard perceiving has made all of us more aware of our surroundings, even No.1 Wife. (I should point out that No.1 Wife does not posses a driving licence, in fact the only thing she has ever driven, is me, mad.) So there we were, relaxing at the end of a hard day shopping, bubbling away in the hot-tub, when we suddenly started to observe loads and loads of satellites, whizzing around the edge of space at thousands of miles an hour. Some were flashing, some were blinking, some just shining, others flaring, loads and loads of them. And finally, the Grand-Daddy of all of them, the International Space Station. Shining at Magnitude -2.6, it makes an awesome sight, seventeen thousand miles an hour. You see it for a couple of minutes and then it is gone.
Now, I am no Einstein. I dont even have a German sounding name, and I certainly don’t have wild sticking up hair. Or indeed, ANY hair. But even so, I like to think that what little knowledge I do manage to retain despite the ravages of old age and red wine, I am able to pass on to the benefit of others and the future generations. For instance, several times as a family and with guests we have watched that “We Are Very Small” clip on youtube, which graphically illustrates the scale and size of objects in our Universe. I have taken the time to describe the photographs I have taken, especially how long the light from the distant stars and galaxies has taken to reach us here on earth. I pride myself that my five year old can pick out two constellations by name, and that my ten year old can pinpoint galaxies and nebulae. I also took pleasure from the fact that No.1 Wife, who in reality is only interested in two things, Dirty Dancing and handbags. (When I say Dirty Dancing, I mean that crap film from the eighties about an aged holiday resort worker on the minimum wage trying to get his leg-over with a gormless teenage guest. I found out that All Female Bikini Mud-Wrestling competitions DO NOT count as “Dirty Dancing”, no matter what music is being played….Even when I offered to join in to play the Patrick Swayze part, all I got was a slap and two weeks sleeping in the spare bed.)
But you get the picture, to finally bring some level of understanding and comprehension of the impossible vastness of space to the Mrs. was, I felt, quite an acheivement. You would be proud, right?
So there we were, watching the myriads of satellites, all exquisitely timed and placed to avoid each other’s paths. Interspersed with the satellites were several meteors, no doubt early splatterings from the Perseid meteor shower due to hit us next week. (Expect heavy cloud all week). In passing, I mentioned that it was lucky that the International Space Station wasn’t hit too often by space dust from meteors and the like.
I could see that No.1 wife was deep in thought…… “Yes” she agreed, and then, from her new-found knowledge of all things astronomical, she offered the following gem;
“It’s a good job they don’t crash it into the stars………”
Somebody shoot me.