Living in a big city, I miss seeing the stars at night. There’s always a glow from the street lights though – which astronauts term as “light pollution,” and when we look up at the sky, we see that it’s filled with clouds and smog – no wonder then that stars in the night sky are disappearing faster than we can imagine.
Over the years, I’ve realized there’s nothing better than being away from conurbations and being able to look up and get soaked up in the stars. I like to call this experience “counting the stars” which gives me a sense of a ‘nothingness’ as I simply look up and see the entire sky in all of its beauty. Some of my best thinking has been done looking at stars. For me, it’s a meditation – peaceful and relaxed.
There was a telescope floating around the house where I often visited as a child [my father’s ancestral home] . In fact those days – in the early 1980’s- you could see a lot of “sky”. Lying on the terrace watching stars is a memory I cherish even today.
My cousin gifted me a scope when I was 10 years, lying in the hospital bed and didn’t have much of activities to do. It was a SkyWatcher basic telescope, good enough to see the moon pretty well. Sometimes, I would spend frosty hours striving to look at faraway objects, Mercury, Jupiter and Orion’s Belt… Some of those explorations were made in the cold dark nights that brought out the best stars — they shimmer more brightly in the winter.
The best stars I have ever seen were at sea [quiet sea beaches] and mountain tops, dark forests and not to forget the planetariums [though that’s a momentary pleasure].
The sky seems huge, filling horizon to horizon with the glories of galaxies and our Milky Way. It’s like a river that flows across the sky. It’s no wonder that ancient Egyptians discovered an year-long calendar that included 12 months with 30 days by looking at the night sky.
They were inspired by the heavens, and built their pyramids in Giza to reflect what they saw – There are today two shafts built on to the sides which were built at the location facing the passing of two stars. One was Thuban, that was near to the Pole Star and Alnilon, a star situated in Orion’s belt. The ancient Egyptians discovered the Orion with ‘Osiris’, who was known to be the god of rebirth.
Recently, Nasa scientists discovered seven Earth-like planets just beyond our solar system that could potentially Harbor life have been identified orbiting a tiny star not too far away, offering the first realistic opportunity to search for signs of alien life outside the solar system. The planets orbit a Dwarf star named trappist-1, about 40 light-years, or 235 trillion miles, from earth.
Over the next decade, the researchers want to define the atmosphere of each planet, as well as to determine whether they truly do have liquid water on the surface and search for signs of life.
But life too comes in many forms and bacteria thrive in bubbling sulphur pools on the edge of volcanoes, in vents at the very deepest trenches of our oceans, and even now as we have recently discovered, in crystals in deep and hot caves for more than 50,000 years.
When we see photographs taken from the International Space Station of our blue Earth below, there is a wonder in the clouds and the oceans. It’s fun to try and figure out exactly where the space station is flying over, trying to identify the coasts or terrain far below.
The artists’ impressions of new worlds to be fascinating too. They almost bring those new worlds bravely to life, as if life exists there, waiting for us to visit and introduce ourselves, like new neighbors in this wonderful universe we all share.
But when you look at the stars, and try and understand the sheer size of space, the universe, you feel lost, astound. The distances are vast, the time taken for the light from stars to reach us can be measured in thousands of light years. And the sky we look at is actually a kaleidoscope of different lights emitted from stars in the past. We are not looking at the here and now, but a collection of pasts — though in the present.
At times, when the sky is full of stars, you can almost reach up and immerse yourself in the depth of the sky. In this universe we are but small, some would say rather insignificant. I would say, our life is beyond messed up. But when we wish upon a star, we get more than we bargained for and that explains the power of Space.