Sometimes we all feel the need for pretty pictures, which is generally when I head over to NASA. The colours and images and thought of peering into the past are fascinating and soothing. And last night I saw something I’d never even heard of before. I don’t know many details of astronomy, but at least I know lots of the names. And now I know of the gegenschein (GAY-gen shine).
On a very dark, clear night, there is an incredibly faint line across the sky, with a fuzzy oval directly opposite the sun. This is the reflection of the sun from the billions of specks of dust that inhabit our solar system along with the larger planets we are familiar with. The dust that made our Earth and our bodies.
Most of it is in the same plane as the planets it formed, the ecliptic. This is the line we can see, a mirror of the sun. The reason the gegenschein is ever so slightly larger and brighter is that they are bouncing the light directly back to us, like a billion tiny full moons.
I feel the need to put in that they are orbiting the sun, not the earth, so they aren’t moons. But that is the image in my head when I see them shining down on us with gossamer light.
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