Saturday, July 19, 2008

Jupiter jumped over the moon

by John D Ramsey

Gabby has fallen in love with the night sky. A couple nights ago Jupiter jumped over the moon. I did not let Gabby stay up late enough to watch it. I did let her stay up late enough to see Saturn and Mars setting in the west while Jupiter chased the moon across the southeastern sky. We also watched a couple satellites float by in the twilight. I worked late and staggered to bed at 1:30 AM, but before I did, I walked out into the street to confirm that Jupiter had indeed overtaken the moon. I wish Gabby could have seen it, but at that hour in the morning she would not have cared. Someday I'll explain to her the mechanics of the Solar System. Then she will understand why the moon travels from east to west at a slower rate than the stars and planets. Right now, Gabby is beginning to learn the names of the planets and a few stars and constellations. I know that her continued interest depends upon my enthusiasm as her teacher.

The next night, Claire stepped outside with us to see that Jupiter was indeed on the western side of the moon. Jupiter was playing hide-and-seek amongst some small clouds. I spotted it but lost sight within a couple seconds. When it appeared again, Claire saw it first. She was excited as if we were competing. If that is what it takes to involve Claire, we will play spotting and naming games. Lisa is thinking that we would make astronomy a large part of our home-school science curriculum this year. It will be an opportunity for all of us to learn.

It occurs to me why Gabby is so excited about the stars and planets. At first I assumed that she was intrigued by KStars, which I installed on Ubuntu. It did catch her attention, but I credit Lisa and her mom with capturing Gabby's imagination. This summer while the girls are not officially in school, Lisa has dedicated a day each week to studying great artists. This week they studied Degas.

Lisa played Brahms recordings, and discussed what was happening in the world while Edgar Degas was painting ballerinas. Lisa's mom, Julie, brought some pastels for the girls to work with. Julie traced a Degas painting from a coffee table book, and then transferred the tracing to some flour-sack dish towels. They soaked the towels in milk and then colored the picture with the pastels. When they were finished, they covered the cloth with aluminum foil and ironed the pictures dry.

That was this week. Last week they studied Vincent van Gogh. Claire painted sunflowers while Gabby re-created Starry Night. A year ago, Lisa and I saw the van Gogh exhibit at the MoMA in NYC. Seeing his painting first hand is more emotive than I had anticipated. I think that Lisa has transferred her appreciation of van Gogh to Gabby. Now that Gabby has painted “Starry Night,” she has a vested interest in the sky, and I get to be her teacher.

As I reflect on God's graciousness to me my heart recalls Psalm 8 as I learned it years ago from the KJV:

O LORD our Lord,
how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings
hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies,
that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider thy heavens,
the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,
and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands;
thou hast put all things under his feet:
All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea,
and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
O LORD our Lord,
how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

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