I’ve been looking up at the sky at night as I’ve bicycled across the west. Some nights the stars have been bright and visible all the way down to the horizon. Stunning.

It made me curious. So I’ve been reading a bit about astronomy (all items below taken from that reading). In brushing up on astronomical discoveries, I realized that what is even more amazing is this: What we see at night is the equivalent of seeing one jar of fireflies out of the billions that are out there. Check out the image above taken by the Hubble space telescope. When it took this image, it was aimed at (what is to us) a dark part of the sky. Those are all galaxies folks. 😯

This image is called The Hubble Deep Field. It provided evidence that there are about 125 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Astronomers estimate that there are about 300 billion stars in our little Milky Way galaxy. 300 billion stars per galaxy x 125 billion galaxies equals. . . 37,500,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.

On November 4, 2013, astronomers reported, based on Kepler space mission data, that there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-like planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars within the Milky Way Galaxy. That’s 40 billion earth like planets just in our galaxy alone. 40 billion earth like planets per galaxy x 125 billion galaxies equals. . . 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 potential earth-like planets in the observable universe.

Really gives a whole new perspective when you’re looking up at the night sky. Awe inspiring. Makes you feel wonderfully small. And you realize how delicate and precious this tiny planet we all inhabit really is.

🌎 On February 14, 1990, the Voyager I spacecraft was about 1.2 billion miles away from earth. After much persistence, Carl Sagan had convinced NASA scientists to take the time to snap what they felt was a frivolous photo with no scientific merit. Sagan felt it would be of great value to human beings to see themselves on that speck of dust “suspended in a sunbeam.”

Here is what Sagan had to say about that photo where earth is just a little white speck:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s