Sunday, October 03, 2010

Perspective on a Starry Night

“In some far universal Deep
Did He tred Space
And visit worlds beyond our blood-warm dreaming?”
(Christus Apollo)

It was one of those cold, crisp nights. The night sky was clear with the stars shining sharp and bright. The waning moon would not make its brief appearance for another hour or so. The open field was far from the glowing night light of cities and towns.

They stood together looking up into the night sky.

“Sure is beautiful…”

“That it is. I love nights like this…”

They scanned the star studded dome of the night sky. There were the familiar constellations, the pointer stars, those few planets that could be seen with the naked eye, all in the glory of their nightly dance across the darkened sky.

“It is so vast…”

“Yes it is and we don’t see a tenth of it, if even that much… Here… Take the binoculars…”

The father handed his binoculars to his young teenage son. The young man held them up to the night sky, and aiming them toward a familiar constellation, he peered through the lens, twisting a knob to bring the subject in focus.


He pulled the binoculars away, looked at the same spot in the night sky, and then again took another look with the binoculars.

“There is so much more up there then we see with the naked eye.” He remarked.

“True…” replied the father. “Here… Look for a spot in the sky where you don’t see any stars, then look at that same spot with the binoculars.”

The son quickly scanned the night sky and observed a dark area with very few stars about 25 degrees above the horizon to the north. He looked at that area through the binoculars.

Where he had seen nothing with the unaided eye, he now saw a plethora of points of light shining and twinkling.

“It’s so vast…” he said. “We’re just a spot of dust in comparison…”

The father replied, “The stars we see are light years away, and beyond the ones we see are more stars even further away. The light we see originated from the star or galaxy years ago. By the time we see that light here on our planet, it is ancient history, and for many of those stars, an ancient history far more ancient then the known history of this world.”

“Where did it all come from? The universe that is… How did it all get to be what it is?”

“Well, you basically have two choices. The universe came about by random happenstance, or there was a guiding hand and direction behind it.”

“You mean… like… God?”

“Yes, though that begs the question of what we mean by “God”…”

A long “Hum…” was all that came from the young man as he pondered the implications of the thought.

In his mind he remembered some lines memorized in his 3rd year liturgy class when he was a much younger lad. “The starry host of night declares the wonder and awesomeness of God. The vast deep of space declares His handwork and glory.”

Looking towards his father he said soberly, “But look at our world… We circle the sun at an orbital distance that maintains conditions on this planet that makes life here possible, and that all in conjunction with the tilt of our planet’s axis and rotational direction and speed. If any one of those things differed much at all, we couldn’t live here. Can you really say it all happened by accident?”

The father nodded. “You did learn something in that science class after all.” He said teasingly. The young man gave a sheepish “Oh dad” shake of his head.

He proceeded to look up at one of the seasonal constellations that were only visible in that part of the year. This particular constellation would be seen in the lower southern sky for about half the year, and then as the seasons changed, would be hidden once again below the horizon.

Continuing his gaze at the night sky, he asked his father, “Do you think there could be life on other planets someplace?”

“Well… Since we’ve never been to any other planets, we can’t say with certainty either way. We do know that none of the other planets in our own system are able to sustain life… at least life as we know it… But when you look at the sheer size and magnitude of the whole universe, the probability of something being out there is within the realm of some degree of possibility… What’s more improbable though is the chance of our ever finding them, or they finding us… I guess my response to your question has to be one of reverent agnosticism…”

“Hum…” The young man again scanned the great starry host over head. He held up the binoculars and focused it on one of the points of light that he knew to be a planet. He could almost see a slight haze of a ring around the small ball in his lens. Maybe someday he could have a real telescope. It would also be neat to take pictures of the night sky through a telescope. Oh well… So many things to do in life, and so little time and money, he thought.

It was time to go. Morning would come early, and the next day would be plenty filled with school and all the other demands of life.

The young lad thought to himself as they turned to go, “I am a spec of dust on a spec of dust. Here we are on Yrdnes, the fourth planet from the star Cyrstias on the fringe of the Deodratia Galaxy, a mere spec of dust in an obscure corner of the great vastness of the universe.”

He shook his head in vague bewilderment at the magnitude and implication of the thought.

Pausing, he looked once more at that patch of apparently vacant darkness in the north part of the sky. Lifting the binoculars, his peered again at the points of light the naked eye could not see. He focused for a few seconds on one of those points of light, then lowering the binoculars; he turned away to head on to home and bed.

That last point of light he had paused to look at, that faint point of light so many hundreds of light years away in another obscure corner of the universe remained etched in the memory of his mind. And on that far point of light known by its inhabitants as the Milky Way Galaxy, on the outer edge of that galaxy, on the planet Earth, third planet from the star Sol, another young man gazed through his binoculars at a faint point of light in the north part of the night sky, that far away faint point of light known by its inhabitants as the Deodratia Galaxy…

(Copyright © October, 2010. All rights reserved.)

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