I’m fortunate to live in a rural area, with minimal light pollution and on a cloud free night, the stars are bright and clear. I love to gaze at them, winking at me from the velvety black sky and as I do so, inevitably, I start to think about a wider existence.
It’s odd when you consider just how far away those pin pricks of light are – some are unimaginably long distances from earth – some might not actually be there anymore, because it’s taken so long for the light from them to travel to us, that by the time it’s reached us, the star might have disappeared – who knows.
I confess I can only identify the major constellations that most folks know – the pan handle for example, or Venus; but even though I’m not sure exactly which stars I’m gazing at, this doesn’t stop me from being mesmerized by the thought of what they are and where they are. That’s the thing, the distances in space are so vast – they are very difficult for us to comprehend (well me anyway!). Light years is the measurement used – how long it takes light to travel if a year – a very, very, very long way indeed! (5.88 trillion miles apparently).
I like to imagine what it would be like to stand on one of those far away planets and look back at earth – I guess it would appear just like a tiny sparkling dot in the sky – how very strange that would be.
Although we don’t believe there is life on the planets in our own solar system (as far as we know) there are billions of other solar systems and billions of other galaxies – the possibilities for other planets that could support life are endless. When you think of it like that, it seems far more likely that there would be life out there than not.
So, if we wager that there is life out there somewhere, far, far away, then what would that life be like? Would they look humanoid (like us?) or quite different – maybe like insects, reptiles or birds – maybe made up of some other kind of material altogether?
What would their planet be like? Would it be similar to earth? Or would they have been able to inhabit a world quite different to earth – we need oxygen to breath, but maybe life somewhere else needs methane or nitrogen instead? Who knows!
How intelligent or advanced could this life be? It might be very primitive – like bacteria, or very advanced – way ahead of anything that we currently understand.
The possibilities are as endless as the stars in the sky; although we shouldn’t run away with the idea that every planet could support life – apparently they need to be in what is called the goldilocks zone – that sweet spot where it’s not too hot, and it’s not too cold (just like Goldilocks’ porridge!), allowing conditions to be just right for life to survive.
Another mind blowing theory is that the universe is expanding constantly – my questions are 1) how do they know that? and 2) what is it expanding into? The theory is that there is an event horizon – but no one knows for sure what is on the edge or beyond it.
Once you start to contemplate the vastness of space, the possibilities of life and what form that might take, then your brain does start to hurt after a while (well mine does).
The lovely thing though is that this can give us a little license to let our imagination run riot. We can dream up wonderful worlds, that look however we want them to; we can imagine all kinds of beings, that are as weird and diverse as we can dream up – the only limit is what we are able to imagine – maybe they are beyond our imagination!
Science fiction has run successfully with this theme, from such classics as War of the Worlds to more recent Star Trek episodes or Star Wars (other Sci Fi works are also available!) – with sophisticated CGI, these visions of space seem ever more real and ever more possible.
Star gazing helps expand our minds, fire our imaginations, look outside of our individual existences.
So, the next time you look up into the night sky, stop and think about just what might be out there.