3/16/2009

Looking at the Stars

I possess an abiding interest in astronomy. Whenever I gaze upward, looking at the stars on a clear night, I am aware of having a strong feeling of connection to them. They all seem immeasurably distant, and as someone without any special training, I can lay claim to only a small understanding of their properties and a scant comprehension of their origin, but to me they signify an elemental truth that inspires awe in the core of my being. I know that within those remote spheres of light, untold actualities are waiting to be discovered and grasped by the human mind.

Beyond the familiar planets of our solar system there is a wide array of mysteries and uncertainties, older than time itself, innumerable in quantity and infinite in potential. Who knows what forms of life might dwell on other worlds? Perhaps our own world is being observed from afar by knowledgeable eyes, at the same instant that we are looking outward in their direction. Or could it be that we actually are alone in the cosmos? Is human life on our planet without any alien counterpart? Is mankind meant to go its own way forever, fulfilling a singular destiny?

I remember that when I had my first view, with a pair of binoculars, of the galaxy known to astronomers as M31, a spiral galaxy within the constellation of Andromeda, I was struck with deep wonder. As I stood absolutely still for a moment, gazing across millions of light-years toward a tiny patch of brightness in the dark expanse of the night sky, I felt an inward thrill, as if I was viewing the truest sight that I had ever seen. It was a fleeting impression, but it was unforgettable.