But what struck me was not the daily fact of sunrise, or the clear sky and fact that it wasn't raining or foggy or dismally dark as it usually is at that hour at this time of year in Sweden. What struck me was how HUGE it was and how ORANGE it was and how it was a GIANT BALL OF FLAME. Seriously! It was crazy! It was this giant flaming ball of fire. RIGHT THERE! Practically LOOMING in the rear-view mirror as I tried to simultaneously keep an eye on it (so BIG! so BEAUTIFUL! so FLAMING!) and negotiate the multiple speed bumps and extremely slow speed restrictions in our village. And also not crash into oncoming traffic while I was busy hyperventilating (to Martin, who kept saying, "What?") about how CRAZY HUGE AND FLAMING the sun was.
Sometimes it just really hits me. There is a GIANT FLAMING BALL in our sky. Isn't that weird? It's so bizarre and so amazing and so wonderful. And yet, at the same time, so very very mundane; just a fact of our everyday existence (which wouldn't be possible without it, so not really all that mundane...still). Just think: it's been burning for approximately 4.5 to 5 billion years. And it's a relatively young sun, a sun on the cusp of middle-age, so to speak, so it could go on burning for at least that long again and then some.
That made me wonder how it started burning in the first place. Did it just spontaneously combust? The answer is: sort of. The sun is basically a natural nuclear reactor. This PDF, available online from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and National Weather Service, has a really good layman's explanation in Section 1. In a nutshell, the sun formed from a cloud of dust & vapor which included remnants of earlier exploded stars, which then contracted, began to rotate (thanks to gravity) and formed a core. As the rotation increased, it heated up and eventually got so hot that nuclear reactions ignited. Boom! GIANT FLAMING BALL IN THE SKY!
By the time we were headed up the hill to Lund, only about 7 minutes after the sun hit the horizon line, it was already high in the sky and being swallowed by...what else: cloud cover.
After dinner, I drove Karin to innebandy practice. The sky was a deep clear black and the stars were out and the MOON! The MOON WAS HUGE. I had my second celestial double-take of the day! Actually, the moon was already pretty high up so it wasn't nearly as big as it might have been if we'd been outside to see it about half an hour earlier but still, it was pretty big. And since it's full tonight and the sky was clear, it was shining very brightly. Lit from the other side of the world by that same giant flaming ball of sun, which was probably busy amazing whomever happened to be seeing it rise on THEIR horizon! That is SO COOL.