A planet-hunter’s ode to Kepler, inspired by W.H. Auden
Though NASA’s Kepler spacecraft isn’t dead yet, a serious malfunction aboard the space telescope may mean its days of planet hunting have come to an untimely end.
“I wouldn’t call Kepler down and out just yet,” John Grunsfeld, the head of NASA’s science missions, said at a news conference Wednesday.
Even with faint hopes still alive -- and with plenty of unanalyzed data in the can that will keep scientsits busy for years -- astronomers and planetary scientists expressed their dismay through social media.
Geoff Marcy, a UC Berkeley astrophysicist and co-investigator with the Kepler mission, expressed his grief through poetry. Here is his take on W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues,” astronomy-style:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the internet,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let jet airplanes circle at night overhead
Sky-writing over Cygnus: Kepler is dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of doves,
Let the traffic officers wear black cotton gloves.
Kepler was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week, no weekend rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talks, my song;
I thought Kepler would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are still wanted now; let’s honor every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing will ever be this good.
Moved to tears? Contribute your own verses in the comments below.
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