Finding ataraxy in the galaxy

Written by Cam Khalid
Art by Unsplash/Usukhbayar Gankhuyag

There was something about late night, long drives home that used to comfort me as a child. With nothing but my own imagination to keep me occupied, I used to look up into the skies and watch the moon trail after me, as if to guide me safely home. It was a sight to behold, with its brilliant glow gliding against a blanket of iridescent stars. The dark, endless motorway had no traffic lights in sight to interrupt my loving gaze.

Many moons later, my relationship with earth’s natural satellite shifted. I became the chaser. I would look out for the moon, playfully hidden between the clouds of night or peering through the coral streaks of sunset. I would fill up my calendars with dates and times of eclipses and special appearances of the super pink moon. 

But the moon wasn’t the only celestial object I had my eye on. My lust for more heavenly bodies had me exploring the cosmos even further. Stargazing has since become another form of escapism for the adult me. I start to find solace in the vastness of infinite space.

Despite my growing obsession with astronomy, I’ve only peered through the viewfinder of a telescope on four separate occasions, a striking contrast to the number of times I’ve relied on the SkyView app. You can call me a digital astronomer. Or a backyard astrophile.

Like many rookie astronomers, I rely on apps and Google to eliminate the guesswork and do all the heavy lifting – feeding me bite-sized information of each planet and star, as well as the best times to marvel at Mars, search for Saturn and more. I’ve also recently synced the apps to my calendar for alerts on major celestial events.

I can’t deny the brilliance of one app in particular: the SkyView app. When all fired up and pointed to the aether end, the app activates its augmented reality feature to demystify what’s in front of me. Thanks to the app, I’m also able to customise the size of the stars and planets in the sky, which is perfect for someone who has vision problems like me. 

Once I could make out the constellations inked onto the dark backdrop with my naked eye, I would find myself floating away from the realities of earthly existence, drawn into the wonders of the heavens. A new form of meditation squeezed into my daily routine.

I’ve “ooh”-ed and “ahh”-ed at the sight of Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mars and Mercury. Seeing their outlines in real life, taking mental photos, and picturing their colour, texture and even temperature in my mind. I’ve even made up for the lack of Uranus with an inside joke between myself and I. 

Sometimes I think about life on these planets – visualising similar scenes of The Little Prince watering the rose on his asteroid. Funnily enough, that’s exactly how I would describe my relationship with astronomy: a love that’s fuelled by curiosity and comfort.