Saturday, August 17, 2013

On Mauna Kea

One of the highlights of our trip to the Big Island of Hawaii was going to the top of Mauna Kea. That was no small task. First we had to meet a van at a crossroads outside Waimea. Then we had to drive about an hour through mist and clouds to the Mauna Kea visitors center, where we got our parkas because it's cold up there, you know. Then we had to take the van up bone-rattling unpaved roads for another hour to 13,000 feet. But it was worth it.

We got to the summit just before sundown. Our guides gave us some information on each of the internationally-run observatories. And how they got all that stuff up there I do not know -- especially the all-important lenses and mirrors that make it possible to see objects in space. But there they are.

We also got to see the Gemini observatory open!
Doesn't this look Cloud City from Star Wars?

This is the shadow of the mountain on the clouds, I think.

And then, coming down the mountain in the dark (which was scary), we stopped again near the visitors' center where our guides set up a couple of much smaller, but still impressive, telescopes. With laser pointers, they showed us some of the constellations, and with the telescope, we got to see the rings of Saturn, the Lagoon Nebula (I think it was the Lagoon Nebula), the Butterfly Cluster (a cluster of young stars), and the Andromeda Galaxy, which is 2.5 million light years away.

Can you say perspective? I mean, really, who needs the Total Perspective Vortex? Mauna Kea will do.

The thing is, though, what I got from that is not just how insignificant I am in the grand scheme of things, but how unnecessary it is to curry favor with supposedly important and powerful people because of how insignificant they are in the grand scheme of things. And how important it is to spend time with those you love because, really, time is fleeting and life is very, very short.

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