Back on a frozen pre-Inaugeration Day, I picked up a hitchhiker on US295N. We exchanged the usual banter ("Got any guns? No? Great!").  He wasn't a local, just in town to help assemble bandstands in DC and visiting a friend in Baltimore.  He had three reasons for hitching that cold wintry day: his car had died, he had no money, and it made him feel like he was 17 again.

The strangest part was that he started talking about recent lack of sunspots, as seen by a NASA satellite mission and reported on

Now, what are the odds that an itinerant hitchhiker whose hobby is space weather would happen to get picked up by a solar physicist who worked with the very satellite he'd just read about?

He was psyched that I was a solar physicist, I was psyched that, indeed, he wasn't a homicidal maniac, and also that he was interested in my field.  I dropped him off at a rest stop on US95 shortly before my exit, and the tale is done.

So hello Jonathan, hope you reached Baltimore, and here's a shout-out to the STEREO mission for bringing us together.

Alex, the daytime astronomer