Or, Why I Read Orion Magazine, Part 872
Want to have your mind blown? Get this:
- As of early April 2007, astronomers had found 204 planets outside our solar system. And they just keep finding more.
- At any given moment, assuming ultra-massive and dwarf galaxies average each other out, there might be 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the universe.
- If you named a star every time your heart beat for your whole life, you’d have to live about 375 lifetimes to name your share.
- If you had a bucket with a thousand marbles in it, you would need to procure 999,999 more of those buckets to get a billion marbles. Then you’d have to repeat the process a hundred times to get as many marbles as there are stars in our galaxy. (Doerr, Orion Magazine, July/August 2007)
What’s the point of all this? Anthony Doerr created all these similes and mental comparisons in his article “Window of Possibility” to convey the unconveyable: how teeny tiny we really are in the scope of the rest of the universe.
The distance to the moon? We get that. The heat of the sun or the core of the earth? Don’t fret: Hollywood has already conquered it.
But the depth of this “Ultra Deep” field? The ability to think beyond all reasonable thought, into the farthest reach of the black unknown? Where tiny (or invisible) pinpricks of light — to us — are actually enormous suns, billions of them?
Trying to comprehend something like this, well, it makes me wonder what other possibilities I may not be able to comprehend. Other simpler equations that so many people say are impossible:
- Peace in our time
- Health care for all
- Safe and clean environment
What does it take to imagine any possibility? I think first it is just willingness to believe. If no one had believed in the bigger universe, who would have built the Hubble anyway?
So when I look through the eye of Hubble I let it reflect back on me and I imagine peace. I think about socialized (yes I said the “S” word!) health care, and I think about the Earth. Not as we want things to be, but as they need to be. As things would be, if we each stopped blocking the view.
Because in the context of the Ultra Deep Field, I am nothing.