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Irrationality as a virtue

Posted by Justin Dildine   10/15/2006 07:00AM

All summer long I had been longing to get a glimpse of the Milky Way from a dark site, but the distance required to travel and therefore the cost of time and gasoline necassary proved a formidable barrier to enjoying such sights. For over a year my observing has taken place in the only place that I feel comfortable, two feet from my apartment door. Limited to a viewing area only about 50 by 20 degrees facing the south-east, I'm lucky when anything that can penetrate the severe light pollution of my apartment complex courtyard and the surrounding San Diego metro area comes into view.

Recently while making my way from the car to my apartment I noticed Sagittarius starting to dip into the roofs of nearby houses and apartments , I realized my chance to see the beautiful things the constellation held were quickly slipping away till next summer. It seemed a shame to go a whole summer without even glimpsing the glow of the Lagoon nebula. Problem is to see such sights I'd have to be in the alley behind my apartments, not known for its safety and security. But the will to observe overcame any fears I had. I went in to grab my scope, a Celestron 4" f/5 refractor on a EQ2 mount. I readied it for my adventure, taking off the EQ motor and dust caps, carrying with me only my 25mm plossl and a UHC filter attached. I haphazardly plopped the scope down between some closely parked cars, not bothering to align the mount to north. Swinging the scope to the rapidly setting M8, I was greated to a view that has never dissapointed in any scope at any time. The glittering flecks of stars in the cluster surrounded by thick nebulosity cut in two by a dark band had me transfixed for nearly twenty minutes till finally the view degraded to mush as it desended into a rooftop. I found myself looking for a way to possibly climb to that rooftop to get another glimpse, I found non to the relief of my more practical side.

On my way out of the forboding alley and to the safer confines of my apartment I thought to myself, what is it inside us Humans to put ourselves in harms way just to glimpse something beautiful? Surely doing such irrational things as my paltry little outing in a dark alley way, driving into the wilderness to see the milky way or extreme ventures as climbing Mt. Everest goes against billions of years of Human evolution, but we do such things nontheless. Is this evidence of divine intervention or some strange genetic mutation we endured just before our species wandered out of Africa into the great unknown. Which ever it is I'm proud of our inherent irrational side, I can't imagine a humanity without it.