It would seem, on most days, that we are indeed at the centre of the universe. In fact, for all intents and purposes, we are. What exists for us in the constant flow of our daily lives is the sum total of all we know and understand. It is the reality by which we thrive and the logic, by which we rationalize, interpret, perceive and analyze while attempting to remain relatively sane. It is the octopus’s garden under the sea. Above the surface, however, storms surge, waves crash, winds blow, suns bake, moons pull, stars gaze and reality, in all its infinite forms, remains an enduring constant, oblivious to the authenticity of the human “self”. Venturing from the thinking confines of our gardens, to rise and meet the “impossibilities” of realities above the surface, can be utterly mind breaking and yet astonishingly liberating. That woozy, out-of-body sensation which accompanies a dissolving rationale, labours to create new room for a broader, more inclusive comprehension of the meaning of life amidst a vast, intelligent system. One such individuals who moves us to rise to the shallows and think above and beyond our daily reality, is Ken Tapping, a local astronomer and scientist at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory at White Lake, located just outside Penticton.
Constant probing of the night sky by scientists like Tapping reveals a plethora of activity surging within our very solar system. Knowledge and study of such activity moves us to reconsider our own mortality within the infinite, and our position among the stars, literally and figuratively. The sun, the planets and the movements of asteroids are studied and tracked, particularly those with orbits that take them into our inner solar system, hazarding potential collisions with Earth. The most famous catastrophic case being the asteroid that hit our planet 65 million years ago, contributing to the end of the dinosaurs. The discovery of an asteroid calls for the allocation of a name, an opportunity most often given to the discoverer. This year, three Canadian astronomers have been recognized by the International Astronomical Union to have their names bestowed upon one of these orbiting pieces of space rock. One such individual is local scientist, Ken Tapping. Asteroid 293878 Tapping is now an enduring symbol of his ultimate legacy, in honor of his highly accredited work with his Solar Radio Monitoring Program. Roughly two kilometers wide, and at an approximate distance of 200 million kilometers from Earth, the asteroid is identifiable solely by a high-powered telescope, and is considered one of the smaller “well-behaved” asteroids orbiting tidally between Mars and Jupiter. While it is not exclusive to have an asteroid named after a person in the scientific community, allocating designations for these pieces of revolving space dirt is not a casual thing either, as Ken Tapping joins the ranks of world renowned and respected scientists, astronomers and global thinkers, including George Gamow, who postulated the Big Bang Theory.
Tapping’s labor of love is the sun, in which he studies and surveys its activity and behavior to better understand the relationship between the star and our Earth. The pioneering Canadian program he spearheads, serves to analyze the critical correlating impact the sun has on our technologies and planet. Due to expanding infrastructure and contingent technologies, Earth has become more sensitive to the sun’s activities, an example of which highlights the events of the Quebec blackout of 1989, a causal affect due to a solar flare generating a substantial geomagnetic storm. This international recognition of Tapping’s work, credits the usefulness and substantial global impact it continues to have on the whole of humanity. Society at large is beginning to look up, rather then simply straight ahead, no longer afraid to feel more than just the heat of our own skin, but the heat of a vast cosmic body in which we are inexorably apart of. It is no longer fulfilling to live a life in the calm of our subsurface gardens; we must now push to understand the impact of the turbulent wavy world above, in order to better understand ourselves by way of the infinite.