I was driving back from a weekend in Orlando on Sunday while the "supermoon" hung like a fluorescent wheel of cheese outside the car window. Sailing down I-4 at night turned out to be a pretty spectacular way to soak in the astronomical event, the moon being closer to Earth than it had been in nearly 69 years.
Between the supermoon's appearance last weekend and Neil deGrasse Tyson's appearance Thursday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, things are feeling pretty stellar. Read Sharon Kennedy Wynne's delightful interview with the Cosmos whiz and world famous astrophysicist, who has pointed thoughts on everything from climate change's impacts on Florida to the importance of Comic-Cons.
If you can't conjure up a ticket to this sold out show, there are other ways to honor Tyson's mission and appreciate the world around you.
Visit the St. Petersburg College Planetarium and Observatory. The "star theater" at the Gibbs campus has a 24-foot domed ceiling that can simulate the night sky anywhere on Earth at any time. See a free show at 7 p.m. every Friday, 8:15 p.m. when college is in session. After the planetarium show, head to the campus's rooftop observatory and peep the planets through a 20-inch reflecting telescope. There are extra telescopes available on the third floor observation deck. spcollege.edu/planetarium.
During the fall and winter, join the St. Petersburg Astronomy Club for Astronomy Nights at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in St. Petersburg, taking advantage of the club's strong telescopes and stronger knowledge. If Tyson's appearance gets you revved to partake in some sciencey fellowship immediately, you're in luck. There's an Astronomy Night at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. $3 for kids, $5 for adults. RSVP required at (727) 893-7326.
If you want to go it alone, look for clear skies and few street lights. Up for a drive? Check out Cedar Key or the Everglades. Closer to home, consider Withlacoochee River Park in Dade City for dark skies.
And then, pull out your phone.
I know, I know. It's a travesty to suggest mixing phone obsession with the pureness of nature. But hear me out. There are some really cool apps that help identify stars, planets and constellations. Try SkySafari, StarMap, Star Walk, Star Chart and a slew of others that slickly connect dots you might not otherwise see. Then, when you get your fill of techy tricks, slip that phone back in your pocket and enjoy with a naked eye.
See a doc
If you're beset with clouds and street lights, consider turning off all the lights in your home and cozying up with the awesome science documentaries and shows available on Amazon Prime and Netflix. There's the gold standard, BBC's Planet Earth, which takes us from oceans to deserts with unforgettable footage. There's Through the Wormhole With Morgan Freeman, a Science network series that focuses on big philosophical questions of our universe. Bonus: Morgan Freeman! And of course, you could binge Tyson's show, Cosmos, first made popular by his mentor, Carl Sagan. Fair warning — it will make you feel small and insignificant. But the universe should do that to us, shouldn't it?