Reaching for the Stars at Christmas
By Hobie Morris
Earth: a beautiful blue orb flying through the universe. I often wonder what we must look like to other beings watching from deep space…what does the light emitting from earth show today? When people see our past will we be proud of what they are shown? – Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
It’s a bitterly cold, black central New York winter night. The Brookfield hills are snow covered and silent. Starlight makes intricate shadows on the barren landscape. Warmly dressed, my beautiful wife Lois and I stand in deep snow awesomely staring up at countless millions of flickering stars. Our Milky Way is like a flowing river of soft lights with its billions of stars. How can two simple country people living in these remote hills possible comprehend, let alone articulate in words, what we are seeing? All we can do is thank God for this amazing and majestic glimpse into the visible universe. We earthlings on our tiny speck of the universe are seemingly so small and insignificant in the cosmological scheme of the known universe. The Greek philosopher Aristotle was, however, wrong. The universe has not existed forever as he claimed.
The “Big Bang” that created the universe occurred about 13.7 billion years ago. If we look far enough above the handle of the Big Dipper, we can still see the most distant galaxy whose light has taken over 13 billion years to reach earth. Amazingly awesome with light traveling at over 186,000 miles per second. Europe’s Planck Space Mission supports a dramatic faster than light expansion of the universe immediately after the Big Bang. In less time than blinking your eye the universe inflated in volume one hundred trillion times.
Despite the fact that 20 percent of Americans believe that the sun revolves around earth, when we feel sunlight on our faces it has taken a little more than eight minutes to travel 93 million miles and reach earth. We are seeing the sun as it was eight minutes ago.
Five billion years ago, our sun was just an embryonic patch of drifting gas waiting to collapse to a central core and burst forth with light. In another five billion years our planet will disintegrate in the outer layers of the red giant star that the sun will become. When this end comes, the brief story of humans on earth will have come and gone. Our time on earth has only been a few brief seconds in its 10 billion year life span.
From space, earth is so majestic and beautiful. There are no wars, borders, boundaries, or killing. Our tiny orb is so peaceful and lonely. We are all space travelers as our tiny home pivots on its axis and speeds through space. Sadly, how much longer will man sustain life on this planet. Cave man aggression and modern technology are putting the entire human race and all life on earth at grave risk. Behavior, that through much of our planetary history, appears not calculated for the survival of our species. We must begin to use our intelligence to plan for our collective future both here on earth and possibly towards distant stars. We must all come together to preserve and expand the boundaries of our civilization for the first time since Columbus. We have the intelligence and resources but do we have the will to protect our endangered home as well as taking the giant steps of journeying to distant stars.
My lovely wife and I, two simple country people, think about such things as we gaze into the universe. Tears of happiness freeze on our cold cheeks. It’s time to warm up by the wood fire.
Christmas provides the perfect time to think – and wonder.
Editor’s note: Hobie Morris is a Brookfield resident and simple country man.