As an astronomer, I have long had a professional aversion to waking up before dawn, preferring instead to see sunrises not as an early morning treat, but as the signal that the end of a long night of work has come, and it is finally time for overdue sleep. But in the pre-dawn of August 25th, 2005, I awoke early and was up sneaking out the door, trying not to wake my wife Diane or our one-year-old daughter Lilah. I wasn’t quite quiet enough. As I was closing the front door behind me, Diane called out, “Good luck sweetie!”
I made the short drive downhill through the dark empty streets of Pasadena to the Caltech campus, where I found myself at 4:30 AM, freshly showered, partially awake, and uncharacteristically nicely dressed, unlocking my office building to let in news crews that had been waiting outside. All of the local news affiliates were there, as well as representatives of most of the national networks. Outside, a Japanese-speaking crew was pointing their TV camera up at the sky, their flood lamps disappearing into space. A glance at their TV monitors showed nothing but flood lamps disappearing into space.