Look up!! A long story…

I have shared this before, but since it is almost an anniversary of when some of these things happened I am sharing it again… it is a long story though!

The girl’s father would always say, look up, look up! Look at the sky, look at the roof lines, the chimneys, the guttering, the curiously shaped windows, look up! At the birds, at the trees, at the stars, look up!

Many years later, after looking up for much of her life in different ways, the girl joined a writing group; the subject one week was ‘The Cosmos’ … It was not something she hadn’t thought about before; she’d been interested in space, the universe, in looking up. She’d seen the first moon landing on TV, had watched other launches and missions, had stood outside on cold nights gazing at the heavens for one thing or another to happen.

However, to write about the Cosmos, she felt adrift, and first explored its literal meaning:

the universe regarded as a complex and orderly system; the opposite of chaos… Pythagoras used the term cosmos for the order of the universe, but it was only when the geographer and polymath, Alexander von Humboldt and assigned it to his treatise, Kosmos, that we gained our perception of the universe as one interacting entity.

Or maybe she half-remember this…

Cosmos… ‘Cosmos – a popular science book and TV series by Carl Sagan.

She thought she might have watched this series, and the more she thought, the more she was sure she had. She’d seen other programmes by Carl Sagan, and read books by him too; however, when pondering on what to write for her writing group she discovered that he wasn’t the only one to write something entitled ‘Cosmos:

  • Cosmos – a seventeen chapter serial novel, published in Science Fiction Digest in 1933 
  • Cosmos –  a 1965 novel by Witold Gombrowicz, a Polish writer (1904 -1969)
  • Kosmos – a scientific treatise by Alexander von Humboldt
  • The Kosmos Trilogy – a series of philosophy books by Ken Wilber

… and there were magazines, periodicals and journals:

  • COSMOS – the scientific journal of the Singapore National Academy of Science
  • Cosmos – an Australian popular science magazine
  • Cosmos – an essay collection of emerging issues, published by the Cosmos Club
  • Cosmos Science Fiction – a short-lived sci-fi magazine edited by David G. Hartwell
  • Cosmos -a different, short-lived sci-fi magazine
  • Kosmos –  the scientific journal of the Polish Copernicus Society of Naturalists

She hadn’t known any of that, and apart from being the answers to quizzes or crossword puzzles she wasn’t sure that any of it would be much use to her… ‘but you never know…’ she thought, philosophically.

She reasoned that most people thought of ‘the cosmos‘ in terms of Astrophysics…

  • Cosmos 1 – a privately funded solar sail spacecraft project
  • Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS) – a Hubble Space Telescope Treasury Project
  • Kosmos – a series of Soviet/Russian rockets and satellites
  • Cosmonaut – one who adventures into the cosmos, as in space, the universe etc.

… but she discovered that there was music of all genres entitled Cosmos, musicians, singers, bands, song-writers, songs, albums, TV shows, films, football and soccer clubs, computer and technology companies, all with the title of Cosmos, or some variation, and places named after it:

  • Cosmos in Minnesota, USA
  • Cosmos in  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Kosmos in North West Province, South Africa
  • Kosmos in Washington, USA

It was some time in October, and although bedtimes were strict, one night she was wrapped in a blanket and taken outside, down the garden by the almost perfectly round rose-bush, and her father pointed to the sky. Look up! Look up there! Do you see it? Do you see that moving light? Like a moving star? That’s Sputnik, you’re seeing history! They were his actual words, you’re seeing history!

Earlier in her life, one August, when she and her sister were in bed in their small bedroom at the front of the house, their parents were in the garden on a warm summer’s night, chatting to their neighbours. They were down the garden, where it was darker, no light from their houses reaching them. They were standing chatting, the four of them, when suddenly, overhead, a brilliant light flashed across the sky, too high and too quick to be an aeroplane.

The moving light stopped, and seemed to hang, stationary, then suddenly it changed direction by 90 degrees and again shot across the sky and vanished.

Her father was a scientist, a practical man, not given to fancy or fantasy. He had been in the army during the war, he knew what aircraft flying at night looked like… what the four of them had seen was not an aircraft. He had no explanation for it, except that it was something extra-terrestrial, something which later might be called a UFO.

At the time there was no way of finding out more; however, there were reports in newspapers of a strange occurrence over fifty miles away in Suffolk… Now, many people know of the curious incidents in the night of August 13th which happened near RAF Lakenheath and RAF Bentwaters in Suffolk, at that time occupied by the USAF. It was a night when the Perseid meteor shower was particularly brilliant. The girls’ father was fascinated by the sky and space, so maybe he and his wife and the neighbours were outside on that pleasant August night gazing at the shooting stars, when the saw the strange fast-moving light.

“During August 13th to 14th 1956 a number of radar and visual contacts were made by RAF and USAF personnel. It began around 9.30pm on Bentwaters Airbase, Suffolk; an object was tracked on radar travelling at speeds up to Mach 15 (1800 mph). A T33 trainer aircraft was diverted to intercept. Around 9.35 pm a number of radar returns were tracked moving north-east.”

“Military personnel on the ground at Lakenheath also saw a number of luminous objects. Two of them appeared to make a sharp change in course, merge together and then fade to a point of light as they moved off. Two RAF De Havilland Venom interceptors were scrambled. One pilot locked onto the target only to find the object circled and was now travelling behind his aircraft. The second Venom did not make visual contact before the object vanished off radar.”

North-east of Suffolk is the city where the girls’ family lived, and where her parents stood in the garden with friends one summer night.

Look up! Look up!

© Lois Elsden 2017

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