Category Archives: Tool Box

stargazing

 

Happy is the person who has acquired the habit of sitting in a place for hours and enjoying the night sky. One of the coolest things one can do at night is to go to a dark place and turn his/her eyes on to the heavens (given that the sky is cloudless). The terrace of a tall building, a city park or suburbs would be some of the ideally suited places for this purpose. Anyone who has done this will know how amazing it feels to set his/her eyes into the full glory of the night sky and wonder how far those stars may be or how big they may be or whether they may be a star or a galaxy.

Actually gazing at the night sky makes us wonder our relationship with the sky. It turns out that we are actually related with the stars. The very elements that we are made of were once created in the stars. These elements are created when certain types of stars that are at least 15 to 20 times the mass of the sun, die out in a violent explosion called a supernova. These elements later combine to form the planetary bodies like the Earth. So we are all stardust. It is very much possible that the elements that make up our right hand might have come from a different stardust than those that make up our left hand.

The one thing that always occupies the mind while stargazing is that if there is life out there. There must be life somewhere out there. I mean, there are billions of galaxies and these galaxies contain trillions of stars. These stars have their own planets and the planets have their moons. So we are talking about trillions and trillions of planetary bodies out there. There must be life somewhere—even intelligent life. And those intelligent lives may be staring at us and wondering the same thing. How long would it take us to travel to the stars? Would mankind ever be able to travel to these places? And even if we were able to travel and meet these intelligent lives, would we be able to communicate with them? What would they think of us?

One of the most intriguing things that can be seen is a small light body darting across the sky at night. These may be a comet, an asteroid or a meteor. There are billions of these objects in the sky. The comets have travelled billions and even trillions of miles from the Kuiper belt (which lies close to Neptune and are outer edges of the solar system) and the Oort cloud (which are farther away from the Kuiper belt). The asteroids and meteors come from the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter. Actually, these asteroids have turned out to be a good source of rare elements on Earth like the platinum-group elements. Recently, new companies have come into existence in order to harness the resources from these asteroids. So in the near future, these elements which once were so rare on Earth will be in abundance and who knows what new possibilities this will create.

The Milky way galaxy can be seen in a dark clear sky stretching across the sky. There are actually more than a hundred billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. Our solar system lies about 26000 light years away from the centre. We are almost at the midway between the outer edges of the Milky Way galaxy and its centre. Our solar system is revolving around our galaxy and it takes around 225 to 250 million earth years to do so. And the galaxy itself is expanding at an accelerating rate. Its amazing if we think about it: The moon is revolving around the Earth, the Earth is revolving around the Sun, the Sun is revolving around the galaxy and the galaxy itself is expanding with the space. If we think about it, just how many kinds of motions are we in at any given time? And we feel as if we are stationary! At the centre of the galaxy lies a huge super massive black hole. Anything that approaches the black hole will be engulfed by it.

When we look up in the sky we are, though not directly, being witness to all these events. These stars have always been and will always be looking down upon us and perhaps calling us. And yet so many of us don’t even care to look up and marvel at its magnificence. We owe our existence not only to our planet Earth but to the galaxies and the universe. For if there had been no universe, there would not have been galaxies; if there had been no galaxies, there would not have been stars; and if there had been no stars, there would not be planets and life. The vastness of the universe might make some of us feel insignificant but on the contrary, it is the insignificant being like us along with every other plants and animals, planetary bodies and the stars that constitute the universe. Hence the feeling that we are not separate from it but just a part of it is one of the most profound spiritual experiences that one might have in order to have a fulfilling life.