Here's a preview of the past. Imagine the night sky when South Bend was founded. A starry night, one hundred fifty years ago.
Back then, if you looked to the north you could see the constellation Draco the Dragon, snaking between the Big and Little Dippers. Back then, in 1865, light left the star Eltanin, blazing out in all directions.
Back then, Jupiter and Saturn were up at midnight. The sky was dark.
On May 22, 2015, celebrate South Bend's First Midnight by embracing the night sky 150 years later. The stars appear in the same place, but the planets are in a different order. After the sun sets on Friday the 22nd, witness a twilight alignment of Jupiter, the Beehive Cluster, a young Moon, and Venus, low in the western sky.
Jupiter's moons are curiously strung out to one side, depending on what telescope you use.
By the next night, Saturday the 23rd, the moons appear differently, with a pair of moons on either side of Jupiter. Telescopes may be set up on the Jefferson Street bridge during the SB150 concert.
The crescent moon on Saturday appears slightly larger and nearer to Jupiter.
Toward the northeast the sesquicentennial star Eltanin is also up in the sky. If you were going from Dubhe to Vega, you'd go...
-end of Big Dipper
-end of Little Dipper
Meanwhile to the southeast, Saturn is rising. Saturn is at opposition on May 22, which means you find it in the direction opposite the sun. Think of your panorama and obstructions as seen from the Jefferson Street bridge.
If you wait til late, a couple of Saturn's bigger moons may soon be discernible in a telescope.
Back to Eltanin.
One swath of outpouring light was aimed in our direction. And it traveled fast.
Imagine driving a car 180 miles per hour.
Now go 180 thousand miles per hour.
Now go 180,000 miles per second.
If you drove your Studebaker at the speed of light--186,000 miles per second--and you left Eltanin during South Bend's original First Midnight party in May 1865, you'd just now be pulling into town here. Those photons are just arriving from Eltanin after traveling about 150 years at the speed of light.
Now for the business of science. Let's predict the future.