By Jason Jacobson
Last night, as the skies cleared and the stars shined brightly, I was able to look up in the north sky and see the International Space Station fly through the sky for a brief few minutes. It is amazing to think about all we have learned about space flight and our universe in just the past century, and even more amazing to think about what still lies out there to learn. Life is GRAEF is about the people that make GRAEF the great company that it is to work for. But what do the people of GRAEF like to do when they need to clear their head and just get away from work for a while. Something that many people don’t know about me is my interest in astrophysics and astronomy in general. When away from work, it gives me time to free my mind and learn about our incredible universe and what role our tiny planet plays in this vast space that surrounds us.
My interest in astronomy started early in my life. Like many kids, my brothers and I received a small telescope as kids and spent the nights upstairs at the farmhouse that we grew up in gazing out the window at stars thousands of light years away and observing the moon which as kids looked so close to us through that lens. Later on in grade school I had the assignment of doing a report on a constellation. My report was on the constellation Orion. Writing that report on “The Hunter” and talking about the thousand year history of observing it and describing the stars that make up its belt was something very exciting for me to research. To this day I still love picking out Orion in the winter sky and thinking back to that report that I did many moons ago.
In my adult life I started to study and read books on Astrophysics. I know, you must be saying to yourself “how boring”, but this led to my renewed interest in astronomy and my purchase of a new telescope. Looking close up at craters of the moon, observing Saturn and it’s rings, spotting Jupiter and its moons made me feel like a kid all over again. You can see some of my crude smartphone pictures of Saturn and Jupiter inserted in this post. My astrophotography skills are still in their infancy. But gazing out in my telescope at galaxies far, far away (thousands of light years) and nebulas and star clusters makes you think about the small part we play in this universe. I like to watch meteor showers and observe those comets that have come out of deep space and zoom past us thanks to the gravity pull of our sun. It’s amazing to think about the destruction that these comets can cause when colliding into a planet in our solar system, but equally amazing to think about the life giving elements that these comets possess. There is a current NASA mission ongoing right now that will land on a comet in November 2014 and examine what elements lie inside these life giving masses of ice and rock. It might answer a lot of questions about life while also creating more questions to be answered.
I find continuing exploration of our solar system and the entire universe to be critical in advancing our education in this country and around the world. The most important thing I see in advances in astronomy and space exploration is that kids in the future can continue to fantasize about universe exploration and dream about what they can find and discover. Our planet is just a very small part of this universe, but it takes all those planets, stars, galaxies and the binding space between them to make up our complex but astonishing universe. Just like the people at GRAEF, it’s the individuals who combine their skills together to make it all come together and create a company that does astonishing and wonderful projects around the country to benefit all.