For this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt, Linda G. Hill has given us the word “astronomical.” As you know doubt already know, “astronomical” has two main definitions. First, it’s “of or relating to astronomy,” as in “astronomical observations.” Second, it more informally means “enormously or inconceivably large or great,” as in “he ate an astronomical number of doughnuts.”
I’m going to use the word both ways in this post. First, related to astronomy.Over the past few nights, except for last night when it was cloudy, I noticed a very bright, white object in the southern sky when I was walking our dog for her last walk of the day. I knew that the object I saw was a planet and not a star because it didn’t twinkle.
Did you know that stars twinkle because of something called astronomical scintillation? Stars are so distant that they appear as pinpoints of light in the night sky, and because all the light is coming from a single point, its path is highly susceptible to atmospheric interference. As the starlight travels through the blanket of air around our planet, it is diffracted (bounced around) causing a quick apparent dimming and brightening — a star’s signature “twinkle.”
But unlike stars, planets don’t twinkle. Because they are much closer to Earth, planets appear as tiny disks in the sky. Their apparent sizes are usually larger than the pockets of air that would distort their light, so the diffractions cancel out and the effects of astronomical scintillation are negligible.
Anyway, I wanted to know what planet that bright, white object was, so I downloaded an app for my iPhone and, based upon its position in the sky — almost due south — I confirmed my suspicions. That bright, white object in the southern sky was the planet Jupiter, and it was easily visible with the naked eye! Did any of you see Jupiter?
The other use of the word “astronomical” is related to its informal use as an extremely large amount. Have you ever heard of “dark money”?Dark money refers to political spending meant to influence the decision of a voter, where the donor is not disclosed and the source of the money is unknown. Depending upon the circumstances, dark money can refer to funds spent by a political nonprofit or a super PAC.
Ever since 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in what is known as the Citizens United case, an obscenely astronomical amount of dark money has found its way into American politics, allowing special interests, big corporations, and even foreign interests, spend huge sums of money to benefit candidates and causes that will help these donors achieve their objectives. In other words, these extraordinarily wealthy donors have bought and paid for politicians using dark money and much of it can’t be attributed to specific donors, entities, or even countries.
Thank you, SCOTUS, for paving the way for the buying of America.
Okay. That’s All Folks.