Dr. Ireland’s mark on the local universe

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”

-- Galileo Galilei

The sad truth is that we will never know why Dr. Dale Ireland left us so suddenly April 25. We can try all we want to discover it, but we will never get there.

One thing that seems certain, for now at least, is that the stars are shining a little less brightly over Kitsap County now that he is gone.

I met Dr. Dale early last month on my first assignment here in Kitsap County. Subsequent to that hour-and-a-half interview in his office, we exchanged dozens of texts, emails and phone calls. He inspired me and my girlfriend to search the night-time sky, in vain, to spot the International Space Station passing overhead.

“I hope you saw it!” he wrote me on the morning of April 19. “It was very bright and turned red as it went into the earth’s shadow.”

While my girlfriend and I debated about whether we saw the station or only a high-flying plane, something Dale had warned me about, I pictured him at his home in Seabeck looking up at the same sky. At the time I wished that he was standing next to us and could point out the ISS and settle our little debate.

A couple of days later, he told me to swing by his office to pick up a couple of pairs of Mylar solar-viewing glasses to look at the sun and see the partial eclipse May 20 and the transit of Venus June 5. He later told me that I could publish the info about the glasses.

“I will give them to anyone that drops by and asks,” he said. “No strings attached, it is not intended as a business promotion I just worry about people hurting their eyes trying to look through the wrong type of filters.”

On the day that Dale died, I was on my way back to the Midwest to visit family. I had hoped to make it to his office before I left, but I never did. I figured I could make lunch plans with him when I grabbed the glasses. Perhaps find out when he next planned to attend a Mariners game. Even try to figure out a way to get a look at the old banjo (a passion of mine similar to his passion for astronomy and photography and weather) that he told me about inheriting. Hell, even with my intense fear of dentists, I briefly considered hitting him up for a cleaning.

Due to Dale’s influence, I rediscovered an inner nerdishness, even if only briefly now and again, for big ideas in our big, big universe. I know now, for instance, that the largest stars have the shortest lifespans. And, I know now, too, that the June 5 transit of Venus will be the last one in our lifetimes. I’ll watch Venus, which will appear as a small dot gliding slowly between the earth and the sun and think of Dale. I will never see either one of them ever again…


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