Jess Beyler
Celestial Mechanics
Collage
Greetings folks!

When I was a kid, they told me in school that science was about truth, and poetry was about beauty, and that the two had nothing to do with each other.

But on the night of the last new moon I was in the Utah desert, about 6,500 feet above sea level, looking at Neptune through a telescope. It was a blue green pearl that occupied an apparently empty spot near the horizon and it was both ravishing and true. There were not many empty spots in that sky so full of stars that I was casting a fragile shadow on starlight alone. Our guide for the evening turned the telescope on various amazing things and told us the scientific facts as we gazed up, intoxicated. It seemed like the night sky could not contain its own intensity and meteors kept leaking out of heaven and flashing to earth. I must have seen 15 or 20 of them.

The night sky in its depths, is our common vocabulary of the sacred, now, in the 21st Century. You don't have to talk anybody into it, we all just feel that way no matter what cultural/political point of planet Earth we have our particular roots. The galaxies, the nebulae, the star clusters, the comets, the dark matter, the millions of blazing suns sparkling through the earthly atmospheric haze that shields us in our waking hours from all that time and the distance, and then opens up at night--this is our soul's home. You don't even have to understand the math. You can feel it.

The collage attached is called Celestial Mechanics. It is a scissors and glue construction from drips and other reconfigured randomness that I enjoyed making on a physics text book and on a copy of The Duino Elegies by the Austrian-Bohemian poet Rilke, combined with a photo from the Hubble telescope and a fragment of an old map by Ptolemy. I like the way it piles up different systems of knowing the sky, and the way the sky can hold them all.

By the way, if you are ever in Moab Utah, near the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, I encourage you to get in touch with Alex at Redrock Astronomy. He can lead you through the amazements of both stars and dinosaur bones.He was our star guide that evening. You can find a link to his website on my Links page (or just copy-paste http://www.moab-astronomy.com/ into your browser)
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