Saturday, June 15, 2024

Eye on Life

Broad interest online magazine

Looking Up

Staring into a starry sky

It’s too hot for sleep, or even to be inside on a night such as this – summer in Cape Town . From my balcony in the relative darkness of the seaside village of Kommetjie, the seeing is excellent and the Milky Way arches overhead in a brilliant display of billions of stars arrayed in clusters, in strings like pearl necklaces and singly, like diamonds in the sky, with here and there a fuzzy spot denoting nebulae, massive, immeasurably expansive clouds of gas and dust where stars are born and die.

Without the familiar patterns formed by the stars as seen from our solar system, Man would have had no means of exploring this planet on which we exist. Adventurers might never have returned from distant lands without stars to guide them, unless an inerasible trail could have been left on the way. Small ships may never have set sail without stars to navigate by, for it was long ago discovered by Man that the canopy of stars at night provided a constant source of reference to establish where he was in relation to where he wanted to be.

Close by the familiar and possibly most well-known constellation of Orion, the Hunter, with his belt of three bright stars and sword represented by the breathtaking Great Nebula, lies Jupiter. A small telescope will reveal the positions of the four moons, Io, Callisto, Europa and Ganymede, which can be observed changing their positions during the course of a few hours viewing, something quite remarkable to see in a universe where the distances are unimaginable to our fairly feeble brains. One can only imagine the excitement felt by Galileo as he noted these movements through his primitive telescope hundreds of years ago, wondering how he was going to explain these marvels to a world not receptive to a new concept of existence.

Rather like trying to convince people today that the chances of our being the only form of intelligent life in this vast universe is nil.  

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