An astronomer friend of my husband’s introduced him to the WorldWide Telescope a few months ago, and we’ve been staring into the heavens ever since. “Which planet would you like to see first?” my husband asked me once he had loaded the program onto his computer. No question: Saturn. I’ve always been fascinated by those rings. A few clicks of the mouse and there they were, circling and circling, a sash of light, a halo, a crown. We looked at Jupiter next, with its great red spot, a storm that has been swirling for centuries. We looked at Mercury, Venus, Mars, Pluto—but we kept coming back to Saturn.
Each planet was unique, different from every other. But what they had in common was this: they shone out of utter darkness. With each turn of the telescope, a new planet came into view on our computer screen, surrounded by darkness so deep and complete that the light reflected by the planet couldn’t penetrate it.