There was a time in human history when people of faith looked to the heavens and worshiped what they found there.
Even in the Judeo-Christian mythos, the urge endured, as we find the Israelites in the book of Deuteronomy implored not to make the sun and moon and stars their gods. The prophet Isaiah flipped the story and told his adherents, “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”
But in this latter age when we remain fascinated by what we can hold in the palm of our hand, it’s becoming increasingly rare for us to gaze skyward and marvel at the universe’s handiwork.
That’s what made Saturday evening at the Bellevue Public Library so refreshing as more than 100 people gathered for an event called International Observe the Moon Night.
Putting away the iPhone for a few hours in the scintillating, cloudless dusk, moms, dads and children alike peered through telescope eyepieces or arched their necks to take in the half-moon suspended just over Bellevue East High School’s football field.
Toward 7:30 p.m., another rara avis appeared in the southwestern sky. The International Space Station was cutting its stellar track some 260 miles overhead. Fingers pointed, oohs and aahs ushered forth from throats thrown back.
It was an astronomer’s delight.
“It’s such a fun time,” said Kim Moss-Allen of Bellevue, who, as part of the Omaha Astronomical Society was setting up telescopes for observation at the library. “There’s so much going on up there and most of us don’t even notice.”
This was the second time the Bellevue Public Library has celebrated the moon observation. The last time was in 2011. This year, the library was one of three sites around the metro celebrating the observation — the other two at the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in downtown Omaha and the Strategic Air and Space Museum near Ashland.
Alice Boeckman, children services librarian, said the event is a good way to get kids interested in the moon and space exploration generally.
“We wanted to provide several different opportunities for families to come and learn,” she said. “Sometimes, we don’t give what’s up there a second thought. But on this night, at least we can make some people aware of everything that’s happening with the moon and space.”
Inside the library, children had put together special exhibits on the moon. There were moon trivia games and crafts. At one station, children were encouraged to reconstruct the phases of the moon by carving away at the frosting on one side of an Oreo cookie.