Searching for the Horizon

I am doing some work and reading on a book chapter on the immateriality of territory and started to get interested in the concept of the horizon (from the Greek verb horizo, ‘to bound’, ‘to delimit’ and the noun hóros, ‘boundary’). The horizon is, similarly to territory, a thing that does not have a material reality but few would dare challenge the fact that it exists. I am hoping I can find a novel, a poem or even a painting on the search for the horizon.

Neil Armstrong, the astronaut, has a nice quote about his experience of getting a step closer to the horizon. It is an interesting observation precisely because it suggests that one needs to get away from earth (to the moon) to get closer to the horizon.

It’s a brilliant surface in that sunlight. The horizon seems quite close to you because the curvature is so much more pronounced than here on earth. It’s an interesting place to be. I recommend it.

Dark side of the Moon

Nasa’s Dscovr project, which I mentioned in my last post, has just released high resolution frame-by-frame images of the dark side of the moon. The side looks different than the side facing the earth. We can now for example observe that it seems to have more creators than its bright side.

It is not the first image of the side which because of Earth’s gravitational force never really shows its face to us. The Soviet Luna III mission provided the world with the first image in 1959. The rare phenomenon of seeing a glimpse of the dark side has poetically been defined as the “Moon’s ashen glow” or as “the old Moon in the new Moon’s arms.” The event occurs when earthlight illuminates the Moon’s night side. The idea of multiple versions of the same moon seems illustrative of the way we understand it. We interact with the moon by mercy of the light from the sun which means that instead of taking it as a total object we identify multiple surfaces of the moon. Our understanding of the moon is in other words shaped by the reflection of light which informs our vision.

The working of light helps constitute an imagined positional geography of front and rear on the basis of the interplay between shadow and illumination. Roy Sorensen wrote an interesting counter geography in his book entitled Seeing Dark Things : The Philosophy of Shadows: The Philosophy of Shadows in which the cognitive importance of the relations between the moon, earth, light and shadow are analysed (Oxford University Press).

Shadows appear to be counterexamples to the causal theory of perception. After all, an absence of light cannot reflect light into our eyes. Roy Sorensen sets out to resolve this anomaly and to show how the causal theory solves a broad range of visual puzzles about dark things.

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly on picturing Earth

Scott Kelly, a retired NASA Astronaut, has written an interesting essay on Medium on his experience of capturing the abstraction of earth from out of space.

But it was hard for many people to grasp this concept. It seemed abstract, distant, hard to visualize… In order to view the Earth as a fully illuminated globe, a person (or camera) must be situated in front of it, with the sun directly at his or her back. Not surprisingly, it can be difficult to arrange this specific lighting scheme for a camera-set up that’s orbiting in space at speeds approaching thousands of miles per hour.

Kelly writes also about NASA’s latest new Blue Marble project which, with the help of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) mission, will soon capture pictures of the Earth on a daily basis. The first image was published about a week ago (link).

DSCOVR is not all about pretty pictures, of course. The purpose of the mission follows a specific governmental purpose meant to monitor extraterrestrial weather forces that could influence infrastructure on earth. The website notes:

The Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, will maintain the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of NOAA’s space weather alerts and forecasts. Without timely and accurate warnings, space weather events like the geomagnetic storms caused by changes in solar wind have the potential to disrupt nearly every major public infrastructure system, including power grids, telecommunications, aviation and GPS.

An informational video of the mission is made available on youtube.