One Earth, one sky: the power of Twitter

This post was inspired by the beauty of the night sky and the interactions that followed down here on Earth.

A couple of nights ago, Venus, the Evening Star, hung a few degrees below a spectacular, 3-day old crescent Moon. I hesitate to paste in a photo here because it just won’t capture the breath-taking, awe-inspiring beauty of the evening sky. Like I often do when there’s a break in the clouds — something we Vancouverites try to take advantage of — I tweeted an alert to my followers

Down on Earth, people started retweeting my alert, forwarding it to their twitter communities. And people did look up, in Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Edmonton, and Winnipeg, sharing their experience with me and others through twitter @replies and mentions. Like a good tweep, I tweeted one last invitation to keep the conversation going (my apologies for missing a few RTs: that darn “Twitter doesn’t always show your RTs” bug)

Mission accomplished, I thought to myself.

It took someone outside my circle of astronomy friends to point out what had happened. (Thank-you, Marie-Claire @mcshanahan!) She wrote back

She made me remember what Twitter has done for “backyard astronomy,” a hobby so rewarding it can pull you off the couch and into your backyard and neighbourhood park just for a chance to glimpse something you’ve seen a hundred times before. In sharing our experience on Twitter, we connect with others around the World doing the same thing. I knew that at that moment, @LuckyStrz was standing outside in Winnipeg with one, freezing, un-gloved hand tapping away on her phone. I tried to sum up that feeling with

Her reply was one of the nicest and most-rewarding I’ve received:

This is the magic that Twitter has brought to astronomy. People around the World simultaneously look up at the night sky and share their experiences. Timezones, borders, politics, age, race, gender — none of that matters. We’re one Earth, one sky.

That’s a powerful phrase. Certainly not one I coined. It might have been @ThilinaH and @ObervetheMoon. Or @unawe. Maybe it was @VirtualAstro with his amazing, viral #meteorwatch. I’m not sure. But I am sure that if you’re on Twitter and start following these folks and the backyard astronomers in your community (in Canada, follow @rasc; in the US, check out the Night Sky Network) you, too, can experience breath-taking, astronomical events and heart-warming, global connections. And standing outside in your slippers or Sorels in the dead of winter, you need all the warming you can get!

About Peter Newbury

Find me on Twitter @polarisdotca

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