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The joy of a small bright dot of light

There it is!

The anticipation is part of the excitement: who will see it first? where? when? We stand up on our beach house’s roof deck, scanning the night sky, enjoying the breeze and the sound of the surf and the fading light of the setting sun illuminating the palm trees around us. Waiting for the predicted time, looking around, anticipating.

Then someone spots it: a small dot near the horizon. Everyone looks, points, calls “I see it!” We watch as it travels across the sky, getting brighter as it moves. We talk about what it means, and we recall previous times we’ve seen it. It fades as it moves towards the far horizon and we move off to enjoy the rest of the evening. It never fails to put a smile on my face.

For years, we’ve been spotting the ISS (the International Space Station) from our holiday home on the Kenyan coast. Whenever we’re there, I check to see if it will be visible and get the family to take some time to watch it fly overhead. I’ll usually look up who’s on the station crew at the time and any tidbits of information about experiments, spacewalks, etc.

There’s a great feeling of being connected. We’re on the edge of water and land, spending our days walking along that edge and going back and forth from the sea to the land. We’re standing on Earth and looking up at the stars, seeing other human beings traveling in a massive achievement of human engineering and technology. The fact that we can see it from where we stand is just terrific – no binoculars or telescope needed. It has also become something of a tradition: every holiday we make a plan for a space station viewing on our roof deck.

In one sense, it’s an unexciting non-event: a dot of light crossing the sky. In another, however, it’s a connection between us and one of the greatest achievements of the human species. What an event to enjoy on a beach holiday!

image credit: Stephen Rahn – Flickr, licensed CC-BY-NC