by Mitchell Tester, College Student

moon in space

“The Dark Side of the Moon”

I must admit I struggled to conjure up an idea of what to write about for this first month—space is just so vast.

The Sun, rising above our heads every morning we wake up, is 93 million miles away. For the sake of trying to understand such a large measurement, let’s say the state of Maryland decided that space travel was what the budget was to be spent on. And how they would spend it is by extending highway 15 into space, 93 million miles to the Sun (this would be impossible due to various factors, but stay with me). If you were going a steady 55 mph, 24 hours a day, for the whole 93 million miles, it would take you roughly 193 years to complete the drive. The Sun is the closest star to us, with our solar system’s closest neighboring star, Proxima Centauri, being around 4.25 light years away.

A light year is what distance light—the fastest known thing in the universe—travels in a year. So, if we were traveling at light speed, or 186,000 miles per second, it would take us 24 trillion miles or four years to get to Proxima Centauri. There is a reason why people use the word “astronomical” when referring to large amounts or objects. Outer space, similar to the deep ocean, is vastly unknown, and the unknown is scary to us, understandably of course.

As many of you may know, we see the same side of the Moon every night. In fact, every human from the beginning of mankind has only seen the same side of the Moon from our vantage point on Earth. Many people refer to this other side of the Moon as the dark side of the Moon, just as Pink Floyd did when they released their cult classic in 1973, the Dark Side of The Moon, one of my favorite albums. The album, considered by many, is about the beginning to the end of one’s life. The dark side of the Moon meaning, figuratively, the next chapter in one’s life after they pass, an afterlife, whatever that may look like. Many of us have our own ideas of what it could be. The dark side of the Moon encompasses that mystery, the mystery of what is waiting for us next.

Months ago, I lost someone very dear to me, my grandfather, or as all of his grandkids called him, Papa. He was a great man and someone I looked up to very much throughout my life. He was a very giving person, as any grandparent ought to be. A little bit before he passed, while cleaning out his house, he stumbled upon his old iPod. Due to myself not being there at the time, the iPod was given to my parents, which he told them was to be given to me. Papa, a man who came from nothing, grew up to own his own business (selling electronics). He was always fond of the fact that I loved technology. It was an interest he and I both shared.

After receiving the iPod, I put it on my desk, not to be touched for a couple of days. One night, I decided to turn it on and see just what kind of music was on it. My Papa and I never spoke much about music, a missed opportunity I now realize. While looking through the iPod, I saw many artists and bands I did not recognize, being way before my time. Although, while scrolling through, I saw a familiar band name, that band being Pink Floyd. He had the Dark Side of The Moon album on his iPod, in its entirety. I ran upstairs and got my headphones, and I listened to the album while sitting outside, with the Moon above me in the night sky. I spend a lot of my nights doing this, sitting outside with my dog and looking up at the night sky, listening to music. After discovering his love for one of my favorite bands and albums, I knew I just had to talk about it with him the next time I saw him. I wanted to see what his favorite songs by them are; if the Dark Side of the Moon is his favorite album by them or if he’s more of a The Wall kind of guy. I meant to call him that next day, but as it usually does, life gets in the way and I managed to forget.

Weeks later, my grandfather suffered a heart attack and passed away. I never got to talk with him about his love for music, let alone thank him for trusting me with his old cherished iPod, full of hundreds of his favorite songs.

The phrase “the dark side of the Moon” is supposed to mean the unknown. You and I have always looked up in the night sky and have always seen that same side of the Moon, for years not knowing what was on the other side. It was not until the spacecraft Luna 3 captured the dark side of the Moon.

The reason we see the same side of the Moon is due to billions of years of Earth’s gravitational effect on the Moon; the time the Moon takes to complete an orbit around the Earth is the same time it takes for it to rotate once on its axis. This is referred to as being tidally locked. The same side is always facing us. This fact is one of my favorite space facts to tell people. It’s fascinating the reasoning behind why the universe behaves in certain ways, and the Moon is something that can be observed by many almost every night with no need for any equipment.

When I was thinking about what to write for this month, I thought about the Moon, the closest celestial object to us, 238 thousand miles away. This then led me to think about my favorite fact about the Moon: why we see the same side. In return, this led me to think about the Dark Side of The Moon, then the iPod, then my grandfather who I loved dearly, Papa.

I hope you have learned something by reading this. Make sure to tune in next month as I talk about our own neighborhood star, the Sun.

As for my Papa: Once my time has come such as yours did, I hope to see you on the dark side of the Moon.

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